Thursday, September 11, 2008

Mother Knows Best

"As a sister you have the most obvious obligation of guiding minds younger than your own and attached to you by the tenderest ties, into every sentiment of virtue and duty, and never to lead them by your example or your conversation into vice and folly."

Lady Spencer
April 14, 1775


  1. Ah, Lady Spencer's Words of Wisdom strike again. I wonder if she drove Lavinia to distraction as well? I know very little of Lavinia, but I wouldn't welcome her as a mother-in-law myself. Perhaps I'm too willful.

    And thank you for posting the portrait! It's one I'm quite fond of, but it seems not to be as seen as others. Maybe because it's in the Althorp collection, not a museum? Is this the earliest depiction of Georgianna and Harriet?

  2. That is a very good question! I haven't seen any correspondence between the two Lady Spencers, but now I am curious!

    This is the earliest depiction of Harriet that I am aware of but I am sure there must be some lying around. As for Georgiana, she was depicted by Reynolds in a portrait with her mother when she was about one year old. There is also a watercolor of her in her teenage years.

  3. Oops. I see that I didn't actually write what I meant. Rather, I was wondering if this portrait was the first depiction of Georgiana WITH Harriet. I have a few images of them together in my stacks of books and it occurs to me that Georgiana is the dominant figure in all. (She's even a much larger figure in the double portrait with her mother, the one where she's standing on a platform.)She seems to be the one looking out at the viewer, even in this portrait---before she was married and celebrated. I wonder if she's depicted thus because she's the elder? (Heck, I even own an 1782 William Dickinson engraving of this picture where her brother is left out! Poor guy.)

    Going to look through my books....

  4. That's a really good observation. This is the earliest one I know of. But yes, G always tends to steal the show in her depictions. I have written about that in this piece before (she is the only one confronting the viewer, both siblings seem to attend to her etc) because it is more apparent in this one. This can be attributed to the fact that she was her mother's favourite child (esp in the Reynolds). By the time the Kaufman piece was created, rumours had been circulating about her intended marriage so her celebrity was in development.

    So I guess what I am taking a rather long time to say is G kind of had a star-like quality that was evident from early ages. It was almost nurtured into her. Harriet, on the other hand was more introverted by nature and, because of her mother's favoritism and her nature as a younger sister, tended to be dependent on her sister. She had similar interests, such as politics, but didn't have the initiative to do most of them on their own. She preferred to be the partner in crime, so to speak. Therefore G would take a stronger presence in both life, and this would be interpreted through art.

    Sorry I got carried away with that, I hope my babbling makes sense by now.