On November 27, 1776, Lady Derby first sat for this portrait. She returned to Romney's London studio ten times in the winters of 1777 and 1778. She was twenty-three with a son and had been married for two and a half years. The romantic background and her white dress are typical of Romney's portraits of women.
Lady Elizabeth Hamilton was the only daughter of James, sixth Duke of Hamilton and Brandon, and his wife, née Elizabeth Gunning, one of the eighteenth century’s most famous beauties. In 1774 Lady Elizabeth married Edward Smith Stanley (1752–1834), who in 1776 succeeded his grandfather as twelfth Earl of Derby. The countess soon had three children: Edward (1775–1851, later the thirteenth Earl), Charlotte (1776–1805), and Elizabeth Henrietta (died 1857). In 1778 Lady Derby left her husband for John Frederick Sackville, third Duke of Dorset, who is believed to have been the father of her younger daughter. No divorce was granted and the children remained with Lord Derby. The countess subsequently lived in exile or in the country and finally died in 1797 after a long illness.
Romney recorded twelve sittings for this portrait between November 27, 1776, and May 4, 1778 (see Ward and Roberts 1904). The sitter herself paid for it on January 28, 1779. It was engraved by John Dean in 1780. The surface of the painting has a silky liquidity, smoothness, and slight transparency. The white gown and lack of jewelry are typical of Romney's portraits of women. The figured-damask underskirt here is beautifully painted.
Angelika Kauffmann painted Lady Derby with her husband and their infant son (MMA 59.189.2), and the earl also commissioned a full-length portrait of his wife from Reynolds that must have been begun about the same time as Romney’s but was finished more quickly, since it was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1777. The Reynolds portrait, later destroyed by its owner after his wife left him, is known only from a mezzotint engraving by William Dickinson of 1780. Shortly after his first wife's death, the earl married the actress Elizabeth Farren, who is the subject of one of Sir Thomas Lawrence’s finest works (MMA 50.135.5).
[2010; adapted from Baetjer 2009]
the sitter, Lady Elizabeth Stanley, Countess of Derby (in 1779); the sitter's great-grandson, Granville George Leveson Gower, 2nd Earl Granville, London (by 1885–87; bought in Paris; sold for £3,250 to Tennant); Sir Charles Tennant, 1st Baronet, London (1887–d. 1906; cat., 1896); Sir Edward Priaulx Tennant, 1st Baron Glenconner, London (1906–d. 1920); Sir Christopher Grey Tennant, 2nd Baron Glenconner (1920–23; sold with three other paintings for £100,000 to Knoedler); [Knoedler, London and New York, 1923; sold for £27,500 to Mellon]; Andrew W. Mellon, Washington, D.C. (from 1923); Jules S. Bache, New York (by 1929–d. 1944; his estate, 1944–49; cats., 1929, unnumbered; 1937, no. 62; 1943, no. 62)
London. Royal Academy of Arts. "Winter Exhibition," January–March 1885, no. 69 (lent by Earl Granville).
Glasgow. location unknown. "International Exhibition of Industry, Science, and Art," 1888, no. 223 (lent by Sir Charles Tennant).
London. Royal Academy of Arts. "Winter Exhibition," January–March 1892, no. 27 (lent by Sir Charles Tennant).
Glasgow Art Gallery and Museum. "Loan Collection of Pictures by French and British Artists of the 18th Century," 1902, no. 107 (lent by Sir Charles Tennant).
New York. M. Knoedler & Co. "Ten Paintings from the Tennant Glenconner Collection," November 17–29, 1924, no. 7.
San Francisco. California Palace of the Legion of Honor. "English Painting of the Late Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries," June 6–July 9, 1933, no. 52 (lent by Jules S. Bache).
New York. World's Fair. "Masterpieces of Art: European Paintings and Sculpture from 1300–1800," May–October 1939, no. 317 (lent by the Jules S. Bache collection).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Bache Collection," June 16–September 30, 1943, no. 62.
Leningrad [St. Petersburg]. State Hermitage Museum. "100 Paintings from the Metropolitan Museum," May 22–July 27, 1975, no. 42.
Moscow. State Pushkin Museum. "100 Paintings from the Metropolitan Museum," August 28–November 2, 1975, no. 42.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Eighteenth-Century Woman," December 12, 1981–September 5, 1982, unnumbered cat. (p. 53).
Liverpool. Walker Art Gallery. "George Romney, 1734–1802," February 8–April 21, 2002, no. 54.
London. National Portrait Gallery. "George Romney, 1734–1802," May 30–August 18, 2002, no. 54.
San Marino, Calif. Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. "George Romney, 1734–1802," September 15–December 1, 2002, no. 54.
Robert Walker inA Century of Artists: A Memorial of the Glasgow International Exhibition 1888. Glasgow, 1889, pp. 161–62, ill., lent by Sir Charles Tennant, Bart.
Henry Percy Horne. An Illustrated Catalogue of Engraved Portraits and Fancy Subjects Painted by Thomas Gainsborough, R.A., Published between 1760 and 1820, and by George Romney, Published between 1770 and 1830, with the Variations of the State of the Plates. London, 1891, p. 39, no. 26, records the engraving after the painting by John Dean, published in 1780.
Hilda Gamlin. George Romney and His Art. London, 1894, p. 94, ill. opp. p. 94, calls the design "semi-Greek, in accordance with Romney's taste".
C. Morland Agnew. Catalogue of the Pictures Forming the Collection of Sir Charles Tennant, Bart. [London], 1896, unpaginated, ill.
Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine 56 (June 1898), ill. p. 322.
Julia Frankau. "Lord Cheylesmore's Mezzotints." Connoisseur 2 (January 1902), pp. 4–6, ill. (Dean engraving).
Herbert Maxwell. George Romney. London, 1902, p. 175, no. 100.
John van Dyke and Timothy Cole. Old English Masters Engraved by Timothy Cole. New York, 1902, pp. 86–89.
George Paston. George Romney. London, 1903, p. 193.
William Martin Conway. Great Masters 1400–1800. London, 1903, unpaginated, part 19, ill.
Humphry Ward and W[illiam]. Roberts. Romney: A Biographical and Critical Essay with a Catalogue Raisonné of his Works. London, 1904, vol. 1, pp. 49, 82–83, 85–86, ill. opp. p. 80; vol. 2, p. 44, list the sittings.
Ronald Sutherland Gower. George Romney. London, 1904, p. 115.
Walter Armstrong. Art in Great Britain and Ireland. London, 1909, p. 193 [American ed., New York, 1921].
Catalogue of Pictures in the Tennant Gallery. London, n.d. [1909?], pp. 31–32.
Arthur B. Chamberlain. George Romney. New York, 1910, pp. 297–98, reports that the portrait is said to have been bought in Paris by Lord Granville, who was the sitter's great-grandson.
The Masterpieces of Romney (1734–1802). London, 1910, ill. p. 13.
M. H. Spielmann. British Portrait Painting to the Opening of the Nineteenth Century. London, 1910, vol. 2, p. 16, pl. 71.
Julian Garner. "Ten English Paintings: A Group of Pictures from the Tennant-Glenconner Collection, Recently Brought to America." International Studio 80 (February 1925), pp. 404, 408, ill., quotes a letter about the sitter written by J. Pitcairn Campbell to Sir Charles Tennant on April 26, 1892 and attached to the back of the canvas.
Édouard Brandus. "La collection des tableaux anciens de M. Jules S. Bache, à New-York." La Renaissance 11 (May 1928), p. 184, ill. p. 198.
Walter Heil. "The Jules Bache Collection." Art News 27 (April 27, 1929), pp. 4, 29, ill.
A Catalogue of Paintings in the Collection of Jules S. Bache. New York, 1929, unpaginated, ill.
Esther Singleton. Old World Masters in New World Collections. New York, 1929, pp. 398–402, ill.
Royal Cortissoz. "The Jules S. Bache Collection." American Magazine of Art 21 (May 1930), ill. p. 244.
H. Isherwood Kay inUnknown Masterpieces in Public and Private Collections. Ed. Wilhelm R. Valentiner. Vol. 1, London, 1930, unpaginated, no. 99, ill.
A Catalogue of Paintings in the Bache Collection. under revision. New York, 1937, unpaginated, no. 62, ill.
Harry B. Wehle. "The Bache Collection on Loan." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 1 (June 1943), p. 290.
A Catalogue of Paintings in the Bache Collection. rev. ed. New York, 1943, unpaginated, no. 62, ill.
An American Correspondent. "English Portraits in the Jules Bache Collection." Connoisseur 113 (March 1944), p. 54, ill.
Giulio R. Ansaldi. "Pittura neoclassica inglese: nota su George Romney." Friendship's Garland: Essays Presented to Mario Praz on His Seventieth Birthday. Ed. Vittorio Gabrieli. Rome, 1966, p. 44.
James Dugdale. "Sir Charles Tennant: The Story of a Victorian Collector." Connoisseur 178 (September 1971), pp. 6–7, 12, no. 5, ill.
John Hayes. British Paintings of the Sixteenth through Nineteenth Centuries. Washington, 1992, p. 212.
Barry Maclean-Eltham. George Romney: Paintings in Public Collections. Kendal, England, 1996, p. 26.
Katharine Baetjer. "British Portraits in The Metropolitan Museum of Art." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 57 (Summer 1999), pp. 44–47, 66, ill. (color, overall and detail).
Margery Morgan. "Katherine Read: A Woman Painter in Romney's London." Transactions of the Romney Society 4 (1999), p. 17.
David Mannings and Martin Postle. Sir Joshua Reynolds: A Complete Catalogue of His Paintings (The Subject Pictures catalogued by Martin Postle). New Haven, 2000, vol. 1, p. 236.
Alex Kidson. George Romney, 1734–1802. Exh. cat., Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool. London, 2002, pp. 112–13, no. 54, ill. (color), notes that the composition is one of many adapted from the Weeping Dacia relief which Romney had drawn in Rome, records the payment (Huntington account book) on January 28, 1779: "Receiv'd of Lady Derby for her Ladyship's Picture half-length – 37.16 – Frame for do Ansell – 6.6 / £44.2".
Nadia Tscherny. "'Persons and Property': Romney's Society Portraiture." Those Delightful Regions of Imagination: Essays on George Romney. Ed. Alex Kidson. New Haven, 2002, p. 54.
Suzanne E. May. "'Sublime and Internal Reveries': George Romney and the Creation of an Eighteenth-Century History Painter." PhD diss., Liverpool John Moores University, 2007, vol. 1, p. 86; vol. 2, fig. 72.
Katharine Baetjer. British Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1575–1875. New York, 2009, pp. 122–24, 144, 212, no. 54, ill. (color).
Alex Kidson. George Romney: A Complete Catalogue of His Paintings. New Haven, 2015, vol. 1, pp. 185–86, no. 366, ill. (color); vol. 2, p. 592; vol. 3, pp. 742, 859, relates a sheet with three sketches of a contemplative seated female (Cartwright Hall Art Gallery, Bradford, England) to this portrait.
Engraved in mezzotint by John Dean in 1780 (MMA), by Mrs. M. Cormack in June 1898, and by G. H. Every in September 1898.