Lady Hamilton in a Straw Hat by George Romney

George Romney painted over 60 portraits of Emma Hart, Lady Hamilton (nee Amy Lyon) in his lifetime, both nude and clothed, as mythical figures, literary figures, allegorical figures, as a mother. I know from my late husband’s reading, that Emma Hamilton eventually became obese, so later paintings must have been made from earlier sketches. For a fuller account of the career of Emma Hamilton, please see Ladies of the Demi Monde and Lady Emma on a blog I just found and love, called The French Sampler.
[http://nonahyytinen.com/emma-hart-lady-hamilton-by-george-romney]


Emma's first liaison with Sir Harry Fetherstonehaugh, of Uppark in Sussex, was short lived. By 1781, she had fallen pregnant and had been abandoned by him. Soon after, the Hon. Charles Greville took the 16 year-old Emma into his 'care'. Leaving her daughter with relatives, she became his mistress and was installed at a suburban house in Paddington Green in the name of Mrs. Emma Hart. In April 1782, Greville took his new mistress to George Romney to sit for her portrait. Though Greville hoped to commission a series of pictures of Emma as a commercial speculation it was Emma and Romney who had the most to gain from this artistic meeting.

Emma captured Romney's imagination to such an extent that he later described her as 'the divine lady ... superior to all womankind' (Letter, 19 June 1791). From their first meetings in 1782, Emma occupied the position of artist's muse. Romney was drawn to her ideal beauty, which combined the regular features of ancient Greek sculpture with the luxuriant chestnut hair of one of Rubens' voluptuous women. Emma also had an intense physical presence and the ability to hold poses and expressions like a professional model. Moreover she was vivacious, loving and innately able to please and flatter the men she became involved with either personally or professionally. Romney was so obssessed by Emma that it became increasingly hard for him to engage creatively with more routine commissions, decisively altering his portrait practice.
[Continued at http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/walker/exhibitions/romney/biography]/emmageorge.aspx
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Media: oil on canvas