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Mary Berry

Mary Berry, by Anne Seymour Damer (née Conway), based on a work of circa 1793 -NPG 6395 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Mid-Georgian Portraits Catalogue

Mary Berry

by Anne Seymour Damer (née Conway)
based on a work of circa 1793
17 7/8 in. x 7 7/8 in. (455 mm x 200 mm) overall
NPG 6395

Inscriptionback to top

Inscribed on socle: ANNA.SEYMOUR.DAMER/FECIT.; the upper hair band inscribed in Greek letters: MARIA BERRY ANNA SEYMOUR DAMER EP. [epoiese].

This portraitback to top

Artist and sitter were close friends within Horace Walpole’s circle; a drawing, attributed to Cosway, shows them both reading in the library at Strawberry Hill. [1] Damer’s self portrait of 1778 in the Uffizi, Florence, displays an earnest classicism, [2] and NPG 6395, with its classical Greek references in style and inscription, similarly emphasises Mary Berry's gravitas (it was suggested that she might have lacked a certain ‘playfulness of thought’). [3]
NPG 6395 clearly derives from the terracotta bust on a square base, dated 1793, now in a private collection. [4] Horace Walpole had a terracotta at Strawberry Hill which he first mentioned in 1795 [5] and at different times listed as 'a bust in terra cotta of Miss Mary Berry by Mrs Damer 1794’, [6] and a ‘Bust of Miss Mary Berry, in terra-cotta, most [?]beautiful, 1795’. [7] This was presumably the ‘bronzed bust of Mary Berry, by Mrs Damer’, in the Strawberry Hill sale, 22nd day, 19 May 1842, lot 22? [8] Meanwhile in 1840 Greatbach had engraved a similar looking bust (with the square socle) from the collection of Sir Alexander Johnston. [9]

Footnotesback to top

1) Sotheby’s, 14 March 1956, lot 626.
2) Illus. R. J. B. Walker, National Portrait Gallery, Regency Portraits, II, pl.338.
3) Lady Theresa Lewis, Journal and Corr. of Miss Berry, 1865, III, p 515.
4) Illus. The Grace of Friendship, ed. V. Surtees, 1995, f.p.148.
5) 22 August 1795; he told Mary Berry that he had breakfasted ‘in the closet where your bust is’ (Wal. Corr., XII, p 144).
6) See Wal. Corr., XLIII, p 155 (the comment made in Walpole’s extra-illustrated Description of Strawberry Hill 1784 now in the Lewis-Walpole Library, Farmington).
7) In his ‘Book of Visitors at Strawberry Hill 1784-1796’ (Wal. Corr., XII, p 274).
8) DNB (Berry) stated Walpole had ‘a white marble bust’of Mary Berry by Damer.
9) Illus. Wal. Corr., XII, f.p.144. Sir Alexander Johnston (1775-1849), distinguished colonial lawyer, owned other Horace Walpole items engraved by Greatbach, see Walpole iconography 1755-59. W. Greatbach made his plate from a drawing by G. P. Harding (reissued 1857 with Damer’s name replacing Harding’s).

Provenanceback to top

A ‘Lady of title’; Christie’s, 10 December 1991, lot 91, bought Eric Clapton; Christie’s, 1 July 1997, lot 85, bought Hazlitt, Gooden & Fox for the NPG.

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