A Study of Emma, Lady Hamilton, as Miranda oil on canvas 46 x 41.5cm (18 1/8 x 16 5/16in).
PROVENANCE: Said to be the Collection of Lady Lane who 'received it as a present from Romney himself' The Collection of Mrs O. Maund The Collection of Sir Albert James Bennett, Bart. Sale, Bennett, American Art Association, New York, 16 November 1933, lot 4 (according to the Witt Library mount) The Collection of Colonel Bennett and thence by descent to the present owner
LITERATURE: T.H. Ward and W. Roberts, Romney (London, 1904), vol. II, p. 184, cat. no. 18g J. Frankau, The Story of Emma, Lady Hamilton (London, 1911), vol. II, p. 99
ENGRAVED: T.G. Appleton, Lady Hamilton as Supplication, 1903
The present painting is one of four versions of this particular type of portrait of Emma Hart as Miranda, heroine of Shakespeare's The Tempest (others show her looking in a different direction). Various studies of this subject exist which were possibly executed as part of the preparation for a large scale painting for Boydell's Shakespeare gallery. Alex Kidson believes it is unlikely that Hart sat for each and every study and that many of the versions postdate her departure for Naples in 1786.
Emma Hart was first introduced to Romney by her lover, Charles Greville, on a visit to Romney's studio in 1782 and their creative relationship was to last on and off for nearly a decade. Exploiting Hart's well-documented abilities in dramatics and maintaining 'attitudes', Romney was able to explore a more psychological and emotional approach to his portraiture. His son later described this particular interest of his father's:
'He had a perfect knowledge of the effects which the violent emotions of the mind produce upon the features of the face....In short, if there was any part of his art in which he more especially excelled, it was in expression, which is the soul of painting' (Rev. J. Romney, Memoirs of the Life and Works of George Romney (London, 1830)).
We are grateful to Alex Kidson for kindly confirming the attribution to George Romney upon firsthand inspection of the painting.