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CURRENT COLUMN

The Case of the Olympic Posters
The Case of the Olympic Posters

The Case of the Solitary Surrealist
The Case of the Solitary Surrealist

The Case of the Recalcitrant Rembrandt
The Case of the Recalcitrant Rembrandt

The Case of the Ambiguity of Authenticity
The Case of the Ambiguity of Authenticity

The Case of Margaret Keane’s Big-Eyed Boys
The Case of Margaret Keane’s Big-Eyed Boys

The Case of Clarence’s Château-Gaillard
The Case of Clarence’s Château-Gaillard

The Case of the M.S. Nov 1910
The Case of the M.S. Nov 1910

The Case of Cruise Ship Art: Part 2
The Case of the Archangel Michael Defeating Satan

The Case of Cruise Ship Art: Part 2
The Case of Cruise Ship Art: Part 2

The Case of Mary Most Holy Mother of Light
The Case of Mary Most Holy Mother of Light

The Case of Leni and the Nuba
The Case of Leni and the Nuba

The Case of the Seductive Souvenir
The Case of the Seductive Souvenir

The Case of the Irish Surrealist
The Case of the Irish Surrealist

The Case of the Developing Dalí
The Case of the Developing Dalí

The Case of Nano-D Technology
The Case of Nano-D Technology

The Case of Dabatable Donations
The Case of Debatable Donations

Edgar Heap of Birds
The Case of the Long-tailed Monkey

Edgar Heap of Birds
The Case of Edgar Heap of Birds

Silent Song
The Case of the Silent Song

Aficionado
The Case of Alex and the Art Aficionado

Portrait
The Case of the Privacy of the Publicity Photo

Potter
The Case of the Potter's Portraits

The Case of the Coy Cornelius Krieghoff

The Case of the Political Portraitist

The Case of the Reconsidered Revolution

The Case of the Anabiotic Abbey

The Case of the Phoney Picasso

The Case of Setsuko Piroche

The Case of being on the Forest Edge with Vern Simpson

The Case of Being at the End of the Storm with Loren Adams

The Case of Being: Under the Table with Thomas

The Case of Wyland's Whales on Walls

The Case of A.Y. Jackson's Smart River (Alaska)

The Case of Red Fish with Blue Breasts

The Case of Looe Poole

The Case of Camaldoli

The Case of MS

The Case of the Misattributed Emily Carrs

The Case of the Doubtful Dürer

The Case of the Purloined Picasso

The Case of the Defrocked Duchess of Devonshire

The Case of the First Wife

The Case of the Dodford Priory

The Case of the Unknown Actor

Art Services & Materials


Confessions Back

Practical Art History
(or Confessions of a Fine Art Appraiser)

by Jim Finlay
James Finlay Fine Art Appraisals

Chapter 3. The Case of the Defrocked Duchess of Devonshire

Description: Framed, oil on wood panel, approximate image size 18.5" x 14", unsigned, titled on verso in pencil, Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire.

Artist/Painter: Unknown.

Subject Matter: Georgiana Spencer, Duchess of Devonshire, had been in her time, considered to be the most glamorous, most accomplished, most popular, but most shameless, wickedest woman in Georgian England.

Painting by unknown artist: Is the subject the Defrocked Duchess of Devonshire?

James Scott, Unknown woman formerly called Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, (circa 1830-1840), hand coloured mezzotint, collection: National Portrait Gallery, London

Thomas Gainsborough, Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire (circa 1785-1788), oil on canvas, collection: Chatsworth House, Derbyshire

Her lifestyle, one of decadence, of libation, of free sex (including a ménage à trois between her husband, the fifth Duke of Devonshire and his mistress), had fueled many a gossip in her day and has been the subject of many books. When she sat for her portrait about 1787, Thomas Gainsborough sought to translate to art more than the oyster white surface of this comely woman. After Gainsborough presented the painting to the House of Spencer, it disappeared. It was rumoured that Georgiana’s husband had it removed from over the family mantle when she became pregnant by another man.

Iconography: The subject painting appears to be a 19th Century copy of a mezzotint etching by James Scott (born London, circa 1890; died, circa 1889, flourished 1853-1889). Two copies of this etching are in the National Portrait Gallery, London, numbered NPG D13718 and NPG D1757 and were probably produced between 1830 and 1840, as uncoloured mezzotints. (James Scott must have seen the original painting prior to its unfortunate surgery). Both are titled Unknown woman formerly called Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire.

The portrait on which the etching is based was painted circa 1785-1888, as a whole length portrait by Thomas Gainsborough (1728-1788) and titled Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. In the 1830’s its then owner, an elderly schoolmistress named Miss Anne Maginnis cut it down to fit over her fireplace. In 1841 she sold it to a picture dealer , John Bentley, for 56 pounds, who later gave it to his friend the collector Wynn Ellis. Ellis died in 1875 and part of his collection went for sale at Christie’s. It was bought by William Agnew, the Bond Street dealer, for 10,000 guineas.

On May 26, 1876, the picture was cut from its stretcher during the night and stolen by an international crook, Adam Worth, alias Harry Raymond. Not until 1901, following a tip-off and the payment of a reward, was the portrait recovered for Agnew by Pinkerton agents in Chicago.

The picture was then bought by the famous American millionaire collector Pierpont Morgan and remained in his family until 1994. On July 13, 1994, the Chatsworth House Trust in the U.K. bought this portrait at Sotheby’s.

Consideration: The Scott mezzotint etching would undoubtedly have been produced for a book on reproductions of portraits by famous British painters, and the unknown artist may have seen it there.

Next:: The Case of the Narrative Navigator.

 Wed, Nov 2, 2005