Portrait of Countess Lovelace watercolour signed lower right inscribed on reverse 'Left to Lady Waldegrave by the Rev. H.E.E. Nelson Ward, who died in Bath, Summer 1953' 30 x 21cm
BYRON, (AUGUSTA) ADA, COUNTESS OF LOVELACE, 1815-1852 - Portrait of Countess Lovelace, by R.E. Hill
Daughter, and the only child, of George Gordon Noel, Lord Byron the poet, and his wife Anne Isabella, Ada was born on 10 December 1815. Shortly after her birth and the subsequent break-up of her parents' marriage she became famous through the lines of Byron's poem 'Childe Harold' (canto 3, lines 1-5):
"Is thy face like thy mother's, my fair child Ada! sole daughter of my house and of my heart? When last I saw thy young blue eyes they smiled, And then we parted, - not as now we part, But with a hope"
He also wrote of her as "The child of Love! though born in bitterness And nurtured in Convulsion! Of thy sire These were the elements..."
When Ada was 20 she married William King, eighth Baron King and Baron Ockham, Lord Lieutenant of Surrey, who was created Earl of Lovelace in 1838. She was an expert horsewoman and a talented mathematician. She met Charles Babbage, the computer pioneer, and in 1843 translated a paper by General Menabrea, later prime minister of Italy, describing Babbage's Analytical Engine, a prototype of the modern computer. Closely supervised by Babbage she made extensive supplementary notes which constitute the best description of Babbage's views on the attributes of his engines. She is considered by some to be the world's first programmer. Separated from her by her mother's influence, Byron often thought of his daughter and was always concerned for her well-being. She was on Byron's mind during his last lucid moments before his death in Missolonghi. Knowledge of her father, and his picture, had been kept from her in her childhood, but due greatly to her husband Lord King, she came to revere her father's poetry and his memory. In 1850 she discovered that she had cancer of the uterus. She died on 27th November 1852 at her house in London and, by her own desire, she was buried beside her father in the family vault at Hucknall Torkard.
The present portrait is one of only a few of Lady Lovelace as an adult, and is accompanied by a letter from the National Portrait Gallery, London, to the present vendor, referring to this portrait, 'George Scharf, Director of the National Portrait Gallery, in 1872, made a sketch of a drawing by Elizabeth Hill of the Countess of Lovelace (which must be after Chalon [who painted 2 portraits of Lady Lovelace in 1833 and circa 1842])'. The present portrait is undated but probably painted circa 1860.
LITERATURE: Doris Langley Moore: Ada, Countess of Lovelace, 1977 Leslie Marchand: Byron, a portrait, 1971 Anthony Hyman: Charles Babbage, Pioneer of the Computer, 1982
PROVENANCE: Rev. H.E.E. Nelson Ward Lady Waldegrave, who consigned it to a Conservative Party Fundraising sale held in the Octagon Hall of the Pump Room, Bath, 1970, when it was acquired by the present owners father (deceased).
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