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Sir William Orpen, R.A. (1878-1931)
Sir William Orpen, R.A. (1878-1931)

Lady Marriott

Details
Sir William Orpen, R.A. (1878-1931)
Lady Marriott
signed 'ORPEN' (lower left)
oil on canvas
28 ¾ x 23 7/8 in. (73.1 x 60.7 cm.)
Painted in 1921.
Provenance
Lady Marriott's collection, and by descent to her son, John Oakes Marriott.
A gift from the above to the present owner in 2007.

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Albany Bell
Albany Bell

Lot Essay

‘Her routine was the same whether she lived in London, New York, Paris or wartime Cairo. She never rose before lunch. She spent an hour and a half reading in the bath before dinner. She gave luncheons and dinners almost daily and saw a constant stream of visitors in between and well into the night’. – Julian Amery

Lady Maude Marriott, better known as ‘Momo’, was born in 1897 in New Jersey. She was a famously glamorous social figure during the first decades of the 20th Century. Lady Marriott was the daughter of Otto Herman Kahn, an American financier, collector, philanthropist and patron of the arts, who was well known for his ability to entertain celebrities and dignitaries alike, a quality his daughter inherited. Otto Kahn created such a worldwide reputation for wealth and grace that it was said that F. Scott Fitzgerald used him as inspiration for his famous character Jay Gatsby in his novel The Great Gatsby.

In 1920, Momo married John Charles Oakes Marriott, a British Army officer with an outstanding military career. During the Second World War they lived in Cairo, where her husband was stationed. She soon became known as one of the greatest society hostesses and organised a multitude of parties for the flourishing society out there and her husband’s Officers. One of these Officers was Evelyn Waugh, who later used her character in one of his novels. Although Lady Marriott was thought to have numerous flirtations due to her lifestyle, she was particularly close to Randolph Churchill, son of Winston Churchill, a fact that allowed Cairene society to believe they were lovers. Julian Amery, a close friend of hers, recalled, ‘Her routine was the same whether she lived in London, New York, Paris or wartime Cairo. She never rose before lunch. She spent an hour and a half reading in the bath before dinner. She gave luncheons and dinners almost daily and saw a constant stream of visitors in between and well into the night. She was, as a result, exceptionally well-informed’.

In 1942, after a long series of parties, she returned to England, where her husband had been recalled. Sir Miles Lampson, British ambassador to Egypt wrote, ‘Cairo will hardly be the same place without Momo and her salon’. Lady Marriott settled in London, where she continued to live her lavish life until she passed away in 1960.

It is recorded that William Orpen painted Lady Marriott’s painting in 1921 for which he was paid £1,500. Her name appears in the Studio Book as 'Miss Kahn (Mrs Marriott)', alongside her father’s, Otto Kahn, who was painted at the same time.

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