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Group portrait of Lady Elizabeth Smith-Stanley, Countess of Derby (1753-1797), with her infant son Edward, later 13th Earl of Derby (1775-1851), and her half-sister, Lady Augusta Campbell (1760-1831) playing the harp

Group portrait of Lady Elizabeth Smith-Stanley, Countess of Derby (1753-1797), with her infant son Edward, later 13th Earl of Derby (1775-1851), and her half-sister, Lady Augusta Campbell (1760-1831) playing the harp
oil on canvas
50 1/8 x 40 in. (127.3 x 101.6 cm.)
(Possibly) Elizabeth Hamilton Campbell, Duchess of Argyll and 1st Baroness Hamilton (1733-1790), mother of the sitters, and by inheritance to her husband,
John Campbell, 5th Duke of Argyll (1723-1806), and by inheritance to his neice,
Louisa Campbell Johnston (1766-1852), wife of Sir Alexander Johnston of Carnsalloch (1775-1849), and by descent to the following,
Mrs Campbell Johnston, London; Christie's, London, 16 March 1956, lot 90, when acquired by the following,
with W. Sabin, London.
Anonymous sale [The property of a Gentleman]; Christie's, London, 18 June 1976, lot 96, when acquired.
Lady V. Manners and Dr G.C. Williamson, Angelica Kauffmann, R.A., Her Life and Her Works, New York, 1900, p. 193.
To be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of Kauffman's paintings being prepared by Dr. Bettina Baumgärtel.
Sale room notice
Please note that the original canvas has been relined.

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Clementine Sinclair Director, Head of Department

Lot Essay

This elegant portrait of Lady Elizabeth Smith-Stanley with her son Edward and half-sister, Lady Augusta Campbell is situated in an almost unprecedented framework of elite female engagement with the arts, in which artist, adult sitters and patron are all women.
It is very likely that this portrait group was commissioned by the sitters’ mother, the famous Irish beauty Elizabeth Gunning, who married first James Hamilton, 6th Duke of Hamilton and later John Campbell, 5th Duke of Argyll. The importance of female patronage in Kauffmann’s career cannot be overstated. It was at the instigation of Bridget, Lady Wentworth, wife of the British consul in Venice that the artist established herself in London in 1766. The following year she was commissioned to paint an allegorical portrait of Queen Charlotte Raising the Genius of Fine Arts, with the young Prince George in the role of the Arts. This royal benefaction was the keystone of her success in England and helped to spread her fame throughout Europe. Crucially, Kauffmann’s paintings were accepted by the establishment on the same terms as those produced by the best male portraitists of the day. Sir Joshua Reynolds was himself a great supporter of Kauffmann and instrumental in her becoming one of only two female founding members of the Royal Academy, that male dominated bastion of the arts.
The Hamilton-Campbell sisters lived very much in the public eye. Lady Elizabeth, eldest daughter of the 6th Duke of Hamilton, met Edward Smith-Stanley in 1773 during her first London season and there followed a whirlwind courtship. Their lavish engagement party was described by Horace Walpole: ‘[Stanley] gives her a most splendid entertainment tomorrow … and calls it a fete champêtre. It will cost five thousand pounds. Everybody is to go in masquerade, but not in mask. He has bought all the orange trees round London, and the haycocks I suppose are to be made of straw-coloured satin’ (cited in Horace Walpoles Correspondence, New Haven and London, 1967, XXIV, p. 14). Kauffmann also painted a portrait of the couple with their son Edward in circa 1776 that is now in the Metropolitan Museum (fig. 1).
Despite the romance of these early days, the marriage was an abject failure. Four years after their wedding, rumours began to spread that Lady Elizabeth was conducting an affair with John Sackville, 3rd Duke of Dorset, a notorious womaniser, and by the end of 1778 the Countess was living separately from her husband. Surprisingly, Stanley refused to divorce his wife and denied her access to her children. With the possibility of becoming the next Duchess of Dorset lost to her, Elizabeth’s social standing was ruined. She left London and lived on the Continent until 1783, during which time her estranged husband started a high-profile affair with the actress Elizabeth Farren. The Earl’s fall from grace allowed Elizabeth to return to London, but her health declined and she died of tuberculosis in 1797.
Educated at Eton College and Trinity College, Cambridge, Edward, who appears as an infant in this painting, was appointed a Deputy Lieutenant of Lancashire in 1796 and in the same year was elected as a Member of Parliament for Preston. He held this seat until 1812 before representing Lancashire, until 1831. He was commissioned Colonel of the 1st Royal Lancashire Supplementary Militia in 1797, a position he finally resigned in 1847. He succeeded his father as 13th Earl of Derby in 1834 and withdrew from politics, instead concentrating on his natural history collection at Knowsley Hall, near Liverpool. He was President of the Linnean Society between 1828 and 1833, and a patron of Edward Lear.
Elizabeth’s half-sister, Lady Augusta Campbell, was the first child of her mother’s second marriage. She too had a tumultuous romantic history. Having been connected in society gossip with the Prince of Wales in the early 1780s, she later eloped with Brigadier-General Henry Mordaunt Clavering, an infamous gambler, only to leave him shortly after the birth of their son.
Kauffmann has chosen to present the sisters using two distinct cultural influences. Elizabeth’s costume comes from the orientalising trend turquerie – the fashion for imitating aspects of Turkish culture seen in dress, painting, music and décor. She is shown wearing a mlek, a simple dress of gauzy white silk, edged with satin or lace closed with jewellery, over which she has a stylised entari, a loose, short-sleeved robe edged in rich gold brocade. Though the artist had not travelled in Turkey, sources such as Lady Mary Wortley Montagu’s letters from the Ottoman court provided the detail necessary to paint what was then viewed as ethnographically accurate dress. This is a rare example of Kauffmann using an outdoor setting for a portrait inspired by Levantine sources, which usually confined the sitter to an indoor setting more in keeping with the private realm of the seraglio.
In contrast, Lady Augusta is dressed in pseudo-classical robes and stands before the Medici Vase. Sculpted in Athens in the first century AD, this appeared in the Villa Medici inventory of 1598 and became one of the most famous and widely copied antiquities, appearing in many of Kauffmann’s most successful portraits. Though the combination of the antique and orientalist sources may seem unusual to the modern viewer, it must be remembered that in the eighteenth century Turkey was viewed as the country in which the antique tradition had continued intact; therefore the synthesis of the two was a natural artistic choice, seen in other portraits such as her 1773 depiction of Theresa Robinson Parker in Turkish dress contemplating a bust of Minerva (fig. 2; private collection).
Importantly in the context of the present painting, Lady Augusta was a highly artistic woman, about whom the London Magazine wrote that: ‘a wish to attain every polite accomplishment commends her attention to music and drawing, in which she excels’ (June 1782, p. 259). Given that she is shown playing the harp, it is possible that she is meant to be understood allegorically in this context as Terpsichore, the muse of music, to whom the young Edward offers flowers in homage. Throughout Kauffmann’s oeuvre, the desire to promote an image of female creativity in this way can be found, presenting her sitters as more than just society women. Interestingly, the figure of Augusta has traditionally been identified as a self-portrait of the artist, who was herself also a gifted singer, but a contemporary print after the portrait identifies the sitter clearly as Elizabeth’s sister.
We would like to thank Dr. Bettina Baumgärtel and Wendy Wassyng Roworth for their help in cataloguing this painting.

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