1751 - 1801
Portrait of Mrs Sarah Kembel Siddons

Charcoal and sanguine on paper, signed and dated ‘1793’ lower right
Image size: 21 x 14 1/2 inches (53.25 x 37 cm)
Framed
£3,000


Provenance

Collection of Mr and Mrs John Whitehead (England), collection of the Duchess of Rutland (Wales), collection of Mr Michael W. Murphy (El Dorado).

Exhibitions
No.97, ‘National Portraits’, The South Kensington Museum (V&A), 1868 (label on reverse).

 

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Sarah Siddons was a welsh actress and the best-known tragedienne of the 18th century. Siddons’s first major success came in 1782 with her portrayal of Isabella in the Fatal Marriage, written by David Garrick the leading actor-manager of the period. Siddons continued to dominate the London stage until her farewell in 1812.

Part of a powerful theatrical dynasty, her brothers were the actors Philip and Charles Kemble, her husband was the actor William Siddons and her son, Henry Siddons was also an actor. She was hailed as the chief interpreter of Shakespeare. Her masterpiece was Lady Macbeth as she excelled in roles that allowed her to combine passionate intelligence with pathos. The critic William Hazlitt proclaimed her ‘tragedy personified’.

 

William Hamilton

William Hamilton RA (1751–1801) was an English painter and illustrator. Hamilton was born in Chelsea, London, but travelled and worked in Italy with Antonio Zucchi for several years. He trained first as an architectural draftsman, but soon moved to theatrical portraits and scenes from plays.

Hamilton became an associate member of the Royal Academy from 1784, and was made a full member in 1789.

Hamilton became very well known for his paintings depicting episodes from the plays of Shakespeare and for his illustrations of poems. He was commissioned to create works for John Boydell’s Shakespeare Gallery, Thomas Macklin’s Bible and Robert Bowyer’s English History. These were widely reproduced in popular prints. Francesco Bartolozzi engraved a number of Hamilton’s best known works.

He also painted modern events, such as the execution of Marie Antoinette, in the manner of epic historical drama. Several battle scenes were also exhibited including The destruction of the Spanish battery ships before Gibraltar in the night of the 13th of Sept. last (1783) and Defence of the Breach at Jean d’Acre by Sir Sidney Smith (1800).

Hamilton’s style shows the influence of the cult of sentiment typical of the period, resembling the work of Angelica Kauffman. He also sometimes adopts aspects of Fuseli’s dramatic distortions in composition and figure drawing.