- Museum number
Group drawing of the Hon Charles Greville, William Hayley, George Romney and Emma Hart; three seated figures, one of whom is spinning, fourth figure on left
Pen and brown ink, with grey wash over graphite
- Production date
Height: 367 millimetres
Width: 525 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- Text from Ian Jenkins and Kim Sloan, 'Vases and Volcanoes: Sir William Hamilton and his Collection', BM 1996, cat.50:
In 1781 at the age of sixteen, pregnant and dismissed from Uppark by her lover, Sir Harry Fetherstonhaugh, Emy Lyon was taken in by Charles Greville, who put her child into care and set her up with her mother as housekeeper in his small villa in Edgware Row, Paddington Green. He had been sitting to Romney for his portrait and the following year took his young mistress, by then known as Emma Hart, to have her portrait painted, initially in a three-quarter-length portrait holding a dog, which came to be known as 'Nature' (1853,1210.626) and later as 'The Spinstress' (Kenwood).
The artist found in Emma not only a classically beautiful young woman, but an engaging model, eager to please, and from the same northern part of the country as himself. She sat to him regularly over the next four years, not only for portraits for Greville, William Hayley and others, including Greville's uncle, Sir William Hamilton (Jenkins & Sloan 1996, cat.167), but also for Romney's ambitious history paintings, most of which were never completed. He sketched her constantly, in poses for both types of painting, and visited her at Edgware Row, traditionally said to be the setting for the present drawing.
William Hayley (1745-1820) was introduced to Romney in 1776 when, having acquired a villa at Eartham in Sussex, he wished to adorn it with portraits of his London friends. A poet and man of letters, Hayley penned his 'Epistle to Romney' shortly after they met and they became close friends, Hayley eventually writing the first biography of the artist in 1809. Well-respected as a poet in his day, Hayley was also a friend and patron of John Flaxman and William Blake, and he encouraged Romney in his project celebrating the life of the great prison reformer John Howard. In 1780 Hayley published his most successful work, 'The Triumphs of Temper', an allegorical poem instructing young ladies, via the heroine Serena, how to retain a sweet nature against all odds.
In his life of Romney, Hayley praised Emma for her generosity and kindness towards the artist and noted that she delighted in music and painting: 'in the first she had great practical ability and in the second great taste and expressive powers. Her features like the language of Shakespeare, could exhibit all the feelings of nature and all the gradations of every passion, with a most fascinating truth, and felicity of expression. Her peculiar force, and variations of feeling, countenance and gesture, inspirited and enobled the productions of his art' (p. 119). Hayley owned Romney's paintings of Emma as 'Miranda' and 'Sensibility' (Ward and Roberts, II, pp. 184-6).
In her turn, in a letter to Romney written from Caserta on 20 December 1791, Emma declared that she owed her present life as Lady Hamilton to Hayley:
'Tell Hayly I am allways reading his 'Triumphs of Temper'; it was that that made me Lady H., for, God knows, I had for 5 years enough to try my temper, and I am affraid if it had not been for the good examples Serena taught me, my girdle would have burst, and if it had I had been undone, for Sir W. minds more temper than beauty. He, therefore, wishes Mr Hayly would come, that he might thank him for his sweet-tempered wife. I swear to you I have never been once out of humour since the 6th of last September [the date of her wedding to Sir William]'. [Morrison, no. 199]
Although the identification of the figures is traditional rather than certain, the British Museum's unusual sketch purporting to show the three men most important in Emma's life at the time represents the milieu in which Sir William Hamilton first encountered 'the fair tea-maker of Edgware Row' when he returned to England in the summer of 1783 after the death of the first Lady Hamilton.
Literature: Sichel, reproduced opp. p. 62; Jaffé, 1972, no.12; P. Jaffé, "Drawings by George Romney from the Fitzwilliam", exh. cat., Cambridge, 1977; for Hayley see V. Chan, "Leader of My Angels: William Hayley and His Circle", exh. cat. Edmonton Art Gallery, Alberta, 1982.
This drawing is also included in the exhibition catalogue for 'George Romney: 1734-1802' at the National Portrait Gallery in 2002. See pp.184-185, fig.57.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1914 BM Old Masters/English School acquired 1912 - 1914, no.59
1934 British Museum, English Art, no.333
1967-8 BM, Campbell Dodgson, (no cat.)
1972 Jul-Oct, Kenwood, 'Lady Hamilton', no.12
1996 Mar-Jul, BM, Vases and Volcanoes, no.50
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number