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COSWAY, Richard R.A. (1742-1821)

Lady Almeria Carpenter
COSWAY, Richard R.A. (1742-1821)
Lady Almeria Carpenter
Oil on Canvas
50 x 40 inches (127 x 102cm)

Lady Almeria Carpenter (1752-1809) was the eldest daughter of George Carpenter, First Earl of Tyrconnel (1723-1762). Described by Nathaniel Wraxall in his 1788 memoirs as “one of the most beautiful women of her time”, she became lady in waiting to the wife of Price William Henry, the Duke of Gloucester, younger brother of George III. Her beauty soon attracted the attentions of her employer’s husband and by the early 1780’s she had become his mistress. She bore him a daughter, Louisa Maria La Coast, who was brought up by Gloucester’s steward on a farm at Hampton Court. The Duke and Duchess and Lady Almeria travelled seemingly as a ménage-a- trois on the continent visiting Switzerland and Italy between 1784 and 87. On their return Lady Almeria appears to have all but eclipsed the Duchess in fact, becoming effectively the hostess at Gloucester House where she was described as the ‘ornament and pride’(Wraxall). She died in 1809.

Richard Cosway is now best remembered as a miniature painter, but he had considerable success in his lifetime as a portrait painter in oils as well. He trained under Thomas Hudson in London in the 1760’s and made his early living painting ship signs and ‘not always chaste’ snuff box lids. He started exhibiting at the Free Society at the early age of 18, but continued his training at the RA schools in 1769. The best of his oils can be said to approach Reynolds in style and composition. He became a personal friend of the Prince of Wales, who appointed him his Principal Painter in 1785 – and it is probably through this connection that he came to paint Lady Almeria. His work can be seen in numerous museums including the National Portrait Gallery, The Wallace Collection and the Metropolitan Museum in New York.

Provenance : Lady Leontine Sassoon
Upton Grey House (Private Collection)

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