159.1 cm x 133.1 cm (62 5/8 in. x 52 3/8 in.)
(Lancashire, United Kingdom, 1734 - 1802, Kendal, United Kingdom)
Medium and Support:
Oil on canvas
Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, Bequest of Jack G. Taylor, 1991
The daughter of a blacksmith, Emma Hart sat for this portrait on September 6, 1791, the day of her wedding to Sir William Hamilton, George III’s envoy to Naples. She was twenty-six, and Sir William was sixty years old. Behind Emma in her white dress is an erupting Mount Vesuvius that references her husband’s publication on the volcano.
The painting also marks the end of Emma’s ten-year association with George Romney, one of the leading portrait painters of the day. Emma had captivated him with her beauty from the time she had first visited his London studio as a model in 1781. During her rise in society as a gentleman’s mistress, Romney had painted as many as fifty-seven portraits of Emma in various guises and attitudes. This portrait was to be his last depiction of her.