(n/a) Alfred Edward Chalon, R.A. (British, 1780-1860) Marguerite Power, Countess of Blessington (1789-1849), wearing red dress, the bodice and short puffed sleeves lavishly trimmed with white lace, pearl necklace, her curling brown hair worn long and dressed with a wreath of poppies, corn and green leaves, seated, the back of her chair draped with a black shawl with an embroidered floral border
Lot 146Y
(n/a) Alfred Edward Chalon, R.A.
(British, 1780-1860)
Marguerite Power, Countess of Blessington (1789-1849), wearing red dress, the bodice and short puffed sleeves lavishly trimmed with white lace, pearl necklace, her curling brown hair worn long and dressed with a wreath of poppies, corn and green leaves, seated, the back of her chair draped with a black shawl with an embroidered floral border
Sold for £6,240 (US$ 9,792) inc. premium

Lot Details
(n/a) Alfred Edward Chalon, R.A. (British, 1780-1860) Marguerite Power, Countess of Blessington (1789-1849), wearing red dress, the bodice and short puffed sleeves lavishly trimmed with white lace, pearl necklace, her curling brown hair worn long and dressed with a wreath of poppies, corn and green leaves, seated, the back of her chair draped with a black shawl with an embroidered floral border
(n/a) Alfred Edward Chalon, R.A. (British, 1780-1860)
Marguerite Power, Countess of Blessington (1789-1849), wearing red dress, the bodice and short puffed sleeves lavishly trimmed with white lace, pearl necklace, her curling brown hair worn long and dressed with a wreath of poppies, corn and green leaves, seated, the back of her chair draped with a black shawl with an embroidered floral border.
Signed on the reverse and dated Alf.d Edw.d Chalon R.A./ London/ 1823, fitted leather travelling case with gilt mount and velvet lining.
Rectangular, 95mm (3 3/4in) high
Exhibited: Royal Academy, London, 1823, no. 688

Footnotes

  • Marguerite Power was born in Clonmel, Ireland, in 1789. Her father, a small landowner, was both a drunkard and a spendthrift and, in 1804, he effectively sold his fifteen year old daughter in marriage to a crony of his, Captain Maurice St Leger Farmer. He too had dissipated habits and died in a debtors' prison in 1817. By that time, however, Marguerite had left him and was residing in Hampshire, where her future prospects seemed uncertain.

    She was fortunate, therefore, to meet Charles John Gardiner, the 1st Earl of Blessington, who had recently been widowed. Lord Blessington was captivated by Marguerite's considerable charms and they were married in London only months after her first husband's death.

    Blessington's wealth and social connections elevated his new wife to the highest tiers of Regency Society. Establishing themselves in a sumptuous townhouse in St. James's Square, he and Marguerite spent prodigiously and soon ran up large debts. Owing to her rather unsavory past, Marguerite was never completely accepted by 'respectable' hostesses but her beauty, charm and intelligence won her many friends among the young and talented men of the day, including Benjamin Disraeli and Lord Byron.

    In 1822, the Blessingtons embarked on a tour of Europe, partly with the intention of limiting their expenditure and evading their creditors. Whilst travelling through France en route to Italy, they encountered Alfred, the Comte d'Orsay, a celebrated dandy, and he ended up accompanying them on their travels. Rumour had it that d'Orsay, famous for his extreme good looks, was the lover of both Lady Blessington and her husband. Matters were further complicated when, in 1828, the count married one of Lord Blessington's daughters by his first wife.

    Around the same time, the two couples settled in Paris, and remained there for several months, until Lord Blessington died suddenly of an apoplectic fit. His widow and d'Orsay thereafter returned to London, establishing themselves at Gore House, Kensington, which rapidly became a mecca for novelists, scientists, artists and dandies.

    Never completely financially secure, Marguerite supplemented her diminished income by contributing to various periodicals as well as by writing novels. She was for some years editor of The Book of Beauty and The Keepsake. In 1834 she published her Conversations with Lord Byron, based on her own recollections of the notorious poet.

    Early in 1849, Count D'Orsay left Gore House to escape his creditors and the furniture and decorations were sold by public auction, thereby discharging Lady Blessington's personal debts. He settled in Paris and Marguerite joined him there, only to die of chronic heart disease in June of that year.

    Acclaimed in her day as one of the greatest beauties in Europe, Lady Blessington was famously painted by Sir Thomas Lawrence in 1822. That portrait now forms one of the highlights of the Wallace Collection. When it was first exhibited at the Royal Academy, it caused a sensation and when Lady Blessington came and stood beside it, one observer, P.G. Patmore, was moved to declare:

    ‘Unlike all other beautiful faces that I have seen, hers was at the time of which I speak neither a history nor a prophecy, but rather a star to kneel before and worship... an end and a consummation in itself, not a promise of anything else.’

    In view of the enormous success and popularity of the Lawrence, it is not surprising that Chalon was keen to paint her himself. She sat for him on several occasions and his portraits were subsequently engraved and widely distributed. Dated 1823, the present work appears to be his earliest known portrait of Lady Blessington. It is interesting to note the difference between Lawrence's approach to his subject and that of Chalon: whereas the former portrayed a demure sitter in a plain cream-coloured gown with simply dressed hair, here we see her wearing a bold scarlet dress, lavishly trimmed with lace, with an elaborate coiffure and wreath of poppies and corn.
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