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Elizabeth Duches of Argyll

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A fine, good looking mezzotint, engraved by John Finlayson and published by him in 1770, after the original portrait by Katherine Read. 

Within a fine replica of an eighteenth century print frame, ebonized and with a sanded and gilded slip.

o.s:18 1/2 in x 24 1/2 in

Elizabeth was one of the two Gunning sisters, both famous Irish beauties who made splendid marriages. They were the daughters of John Gunning of Ireland.

During the 1740’s the family were living in Ireland, dividing their time between the ancestral home in Roscommon and a rented house in Dublin. The sister’s mother encouraged her daughters into the theatre as a means of earning a living, the family being in relative poverty. In 1748 the two sisters attended a ball held at Dublin Castle wearing dresses borrowed from Thomas Sheridan, manager of a local theatre. They were presented to The Earl of Harrington who was impressed with them such that he was persuaded to grant their mother, Bridget Gunning, a pension. This she used to bring herself and her two daughters to Huntingdon in England. Their attendance at local balls and parties made celebrities of the pair and by 1750 their presence at the Court of St. James’, London, was noted in the local newspapers. A case of ‘love at first’ sight saw Elizabeth married to the 6th Duke of Hamilton on the night of St. Valentine’s Day, 1752, the spontaneous marriage without a license or the reading of banns allowed at The Mayfair Chapel; the wedding ring a repurposed curtain ring. The Duke died at the beginning of 1758 and the following year, when still just 34, Elizabeth married John Campbell, son and heir to the Duke of Argyll, the title succeeded to the year of this engraving, 1770. From 1761 to 1784, Elizabeth was Lady of the Bedchamber to Queen Charlotte. King George III, being a long time admirer of hers, created her Baroness Hamilton of Hambledon in 1776. 

The artist responsible for this fine portrait, Katherine Read, was from Scottish aristocracy. She studied crayon painting under La Tour in Paris from 1745 before leaving for Rome in 1751. There she established a clientele drawn from the Italian aristocracy and the transient rich Brits on their Grand Tours. After two years she returned to England and established herself as one if the most fashionable portrait painters in crayon; a reputation she maintained for over twenty years. In 1777 she journeyed from India for the Cape but died on route and was buried at sea.


Item Code: 4960

£ 795

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