'Lady Hamilton as a Bacchante'
Elizabeth Vigée-Le Brun
Accession Number LL3527
Bacchantes were the female assistants at the rites and celebrations of the Roman God of wine, Bacchus. Lady Hamilton wears vine leaves in her hair and flowing classical garb, and carries a tambourine. The unusual but striking pose suggests this was one of Lady Hamilton’s notorious Attitudes, a series of expressive gestures and mime acts she created to entertain friends and guests, which became fashionable and eventually famous.
In the background, a smoking Vesuvius indicates that the work was painted in Naples, where Lady Hamilton lived as the wife of the British envoy, Sir William Hamilton, and where she was later to meet and become the mistress of Nelson. Vigée-Le Brun made at least four portraits of her during visits to Naples between 1790 and 1792.
An extended study of 'Lady Hamilton as a Bacchante' is available as part of our picture of the month series.