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Hunterian Museum & Art Gallery William Hunter Collections:
GLAHA 43803

This information is © The Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery, University of Glasgow 2017

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GLAHM 43803: 'Isabella, Countess of Hertford ' 1765 - click to view larger image

"Isabella, Countess of Hertford " 1765

oil painting

CRE ROSLIN, Alexander; (Swedish; 1718-1793)

oil on canvas
85.7 x 73.0
112.0 x 94.0 the frame is dated c. 1760-80, and is of non-standard size, which shows no sign of ada
Signed and dated 'Roslin Suedois / Paris 1765'
From the founder, William Hunter's collection. Isabella Fitzroy (1726-1782) married Francis Seymour Conway in 1741 to become the Countess of Hertford. She probably met Hunter during her first pregnancy in 1742. Hunter and Lady Hertford became colleagues in the royal household in the early 1760s, Hunter as Physician in Extraordinary, and the Countess as one of Queen Charlotte's Ladies of the Bedchamber. It is a mystery how this painting came to be in Hunter's collection. It was painted in Paris by the Swede Roslin, at the end of the Earl of Hertford's posting there as Ambassador 1763-5, during which time the philosopher David Hume was his secretary. The choice of Roslin as painter is itself of interest. The English aristocracy tended to have themselves painted by Nattier or Drouais, but Roslin painted a number of the French royal family in the same year, and the recommendation seems likely to have come through the court. Hertford held a series of important posts, including that of Lord Chamberlain from 1766 to 1782, which gave him absolute control of the London stage. Hunter supplied him with political pamphlets when he was away from London. Although the painter has paid most attention to Isabella's wealth and rank - she wears French court dress and the diamonds in her necklace were reputed to be worth 60,000 - Hunter may have looked at the portrait as the record of a lady who shared many of his interests, including art collecting. Our knowledge of the friendship between Hunter and the Countess comes mainly from her correspondence with Horace Walpole, who was a cousin of the Earl of Hertford. It was through the Countess that Walpole and Hunter first met in 1759. On 22 October Lady Hertford wrote to Walpole: 'Lady Northumberland told me last night she had received a very agreeable present from you and admired it greatly. I want to beg one copy but as I own it is not for myself you may refuse me if you have the least inclination. The person I wish to give it to is Dr. Hunter who is already a humble admirer of your's and must become still more so when he has the pleasure of reading the Fugitive Pieces.' Bequeathed by Dr William Hunter, 1783

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For more information please contact Malcolm.Chapman@glasgow.ac.uk