Elizabeth Gunning, Duchess of Hamilton and Argyll

Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1758 - 1764

LL 3126

About this object

This portrait was shown at the first-ever Society of Artists exhibition in London in 1760. The artist, Joshua Reynolds, kept it in his studio until 1764. The finished painting was clearly intended to display both his skill and his theory of portraiture.

Elizabeth Gunning was a famous Irish beauty. She married the 6th Duke of Hamilton in 1752. Recently widowed at the time of this portrait, she was shortly to marry John Campbell, the future 5th Duke of Argyll. Reynolds portrays her here in peeress’s robes, worn by members of the aristocracy, but the rest of her costume and her features are idealized, inspired by antique sculpture.

The doves and the relief sculpture of the Judgement of Paris on the left are allusions to the goddess Venus. They are typical devices of Reynolds’s intellectual and elevated brand of portraiture.

Object specifics

  • Artist(s)
    Sir Joshua Reynolds (British: English, born:1723-07-16, died:1792-02-23)
  • Date
    1758 - 1764
  • Materials
    Oil paint; Canvas
  • Measurements
    canvas/support: 238.5 cm x 147.5 cm
  • Physical description
    A full length portrait of a woman wearing a long white dress with red and white robes. Her body faces the viewer and her head is turned to her right. She leans her right arm on a large plinth and foliage can be see in the background.
  • Related people
    Elizabeth (née Gunning) Campbell (Sitter) ; Gooden and Fox (Previous owner) ; James Hamilton (Previous owner) ; William Hesketh Lever (Previous owner) ; Sir Joshua Reynolds (Artist/maker)
  • Other number(s)
    Accession Number: LL 3126; Out of Use Accession Number: WHL 4093
  • Credit line
    Purchased by William Hesketh Lever in 1919
  • Location
    Lady Lever Art Gallery, Room 06
  • Collection
    From the Lady Lever Art Gallery collections


Previous owners

  • William Hesketh Lever

    Owned from: 1919-11-06
    How acquired: Purchased by Gooden and Fox from Christie's 06/11/1919 6,800gns
    Owned until: 1925
    Disposal method: Unknown or unrecorded
  • Gooden and Fox

    Owned from: 1919-11-06
    How acquired: Purchased from Christie's (49) £7350 for William Hesketh Lever
    Owned until: 1919-11-06
    Disposal method: Unknown or unrecorded
  • James Hamilton

    Owned from: Unknown or unrecorded
    How acquired: Unknown or unrecorded
    Owned until: Unknown or unrecorded
    Disposal method: by descent in the collections of the Dukes of Hamilton
Object view = Fine Art
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