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Portrait, Dutchess of Devonshire, Angelica Kauffmann, Antique Print, London, 1782

$575

Angelica Kauffmann (1741-1807) (after)
William Dickinson (1747-1823) (engraver)
Her Grace the Duchess of Devonshire and Viscountess Duncannon
William Dickinson, London: November 26, 1782
Sepia printed mixed method etching
16.75 x 12.25 inches, plate mark
20.5 x 15 inches, overall
$575

Full length seated oval portrait of two sisters, Georgiana Spencer Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire and Henrietta Frances Spencer Ponsonby, Countess of Bessborough, aged 25 and 21 respectively. They are seated in the garden of a country estate with hands clasped, Georgiana looking at the viewer, Henrietta looking to the right. They are dressed in flowing gowns with V-shaped necklines, hair piled on their heads in 18th-century fashion and decorated with ribbons. The composition overall is in the neoclassical taste; the two woman sit in front of a stone wall with carved relief, trees and ivy, and a large urn on a pedestal. Another example of this print was purchased by King George IV of England from Colnaghi & Co., 16 May 1822, and is in the Royal Collection Trust.

Of interest to contemporary viewers, the sisters were the great-great-great-great aunts of Diana Spencer, Princess of Wales (1961-1997), mother of Prince William and Prince Harry. Georgiana was the central character in the bestselling historical novel Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, which chronicled her tumultuous marriage and was made into the 2008 film The Duchess starring Keira Knightley.

Product description continues below.

Description

Georgiana Spencer Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire (1757-1806) was famous for her intelligence, charisma, and beauty. Born Lady Georgiana Spencer, she married William Cavendish, 5th Duke of Devonshire at the age of 17. Henrietta Frances Spencer Ponsonby, Countess of Bessborough (1761-1821) was known as Harriet. She married Frederick Ponsonby, Lord Duncannon, a cousin of Georgiana’s husband, at age 19. Both women had turbulent marriages marked by extramarital affairs and children born out of wedlock. The sisters remained close and attended political events and social gatherings together until Georgiana’s death.

Angelica Kauffmann was a child prodigy who was trained by her father, also a painter. From the age of 16 she traveled through Austria and Italy, assisting him with religious commissions as well as painting portrait commissions of her own. After arriving in London in 1766, she became known for her historical paintings, the most prestigious genre during the 18th century. Kauffman achieved extraordinary recognition for a female artist of her day, and was one of only two female founding members of the British Royal Academy. She spent the latter part of her life in Italy.

William Dickinson was a print seller and engraver in London, trading alone in business, mainly as a sole proprietor from 1773 to 1802. He was associated with Thomas Watson from 1776, and they traded as Watson and Dickinson from 1778 until Watson’s death in 1781. In the early 19th century he moved to Paris, although he still supplied the London market from there. He died in Paris in 1823. Dickinson exhibited at the Society of Artists from 1768 to 1776. One of the finest mezzotint engravers of his time, he engraved portraits after Sir Joshua Reynolds and others.

Full publication information: Painted by Angelica Kauffman [sic]. Engraved by W. Dickinson. London, Published Nov’r 20th, 1782 by W. Dickinson Engraver & Printseller No. 138 New Bond Street.

Condition: Generally very good, recently professionally cleaned and deacidified, with only light remaining toning, wear, handling.

References:

Bloy, Marjie. “Henrietta Ponsonby, Countess of Bessborough.” A Web of English History. 12 January 2016. http://www.historyhome.co.uk/people/bessboro.htm (18 March 2021).

“Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire and Viscountess Duncannon.” Royal Collection Trust. https://www.rct.uk/collection/652289/georgiana-duchess-of-devonshire-and-viscountess-duncannon (18 March 2021).

Heller, Nancy G. Women Artists, An Illustrated History. Abbeville Press: New York, 1987, pp. 52-58.

Knowles, Rachel. “Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire (1757-1806). Regency History. 13 October 2012. https://www.regencyhistory.net/2012/10/georgiana-cavendish-duchess-of.html (18 March 2021).

Maxted, Ian. “The London book trades 1775-1800: a preliminary checklist of members.” Exeter Working Papers in British Book Trade History. U.K.: Devon Library and Information Services. 24 July 2001. http://bookhistory.blogspot.com/2007/01/london-1775-1800-d.html (29 January 2009) (Dickinson).

“William Dickinson.” National Library of Australia. 17 June 2004. http://nla.gov.au/nla.pic-an9283218-1 (5 November 2004).

Additional information

Century

18th Century