Lady Hamilton As "Medea"

Lady Hamilton As "Medea"
George Romney (English, 1734-1802)
c. 1786
Oil on canvas 
29-1/4 x 25-1/4 in. (74.3 x 64.1 cm) 
Credit Line:
The Norton Simon Foundation 
Accession Number:
© The Norton Simon Foundation 
Not on View

Born Amy Lyon in 1765 and daughter of a blacksmith, the refashioned “Emma” Hamilton would become one of the most celebrated personalities of her time. First as mistress and later wife to Sir William Hamilton, the British envoy to Naples, as Lady Hamilton she charmed and entertained guests with her singing and famous “attitudes,” a series of dramatic poses that wordlessly acted out mythological characters. She was also the mistress of Horatio Nelson, the British officer who fought and died at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.The auburn-haired beauty was a favorite subject for Romney, who wrote to her in Naples in 1786 that his work on a series of her attitudes was progressing well, especially her re-enactment of Medea, the sorceress and forsaken wife of Jason in the Greek tale of Jason and the Argonauts. In his letter, Romney describes the classical picture as one of “Medea with her hair floating in the air.”


The artist, given ca. 1772-1775 (during his Italian visit) to;
British Consul at Leghorn, sold to;
British family named O’Cluse, Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany (the O’Cluse ancestors purchased the painting in Leghorn, Italy early in the 19th century);
A. Ruck, London, purchased from the O'Cluse heirs through the British Consul General at Frankfurt, then sold 21 September 1926 to;
[Duveen Bros., London, stock no. 28636, sold 1965 to];
Norton Simon Foundation (sale, London, Sotheby’s, 27 June 1973, lot 13, unsold and returned to);
The Norton Simon Foundation.

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