The Wallace Collection

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Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, and Lady Elisabeth Foster
  • Jean-Urbain Guérin (1761 - 1836)
  • Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, and Lady Elisabeth Foster
  • Passy, France
  • 1791
  • Miniature
  • Painted on ivory
  • Image size: 9.4 x 6.8 cm
    Frame size: 10.3 x 7.5 cm
  • Signature: 'Guerin f.' In light pink lettering
  • M177
  • Boudoir Cabinet
Commentary
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Further Reading
  • The two sitters, Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire (1757-1806) and Lady Elizabeth Christiana Foster née Harvey (1757-1824), were celebrities of their time and key players in one of the most high-profile English society scandals of the period. Georgiana, née Spencer, married the Duke of Devonshire in 1774 and immediately became a fashion icon and celebrity. In 1782 the Devonshires met Lady Elizabeth Foster, who soon became the Duke’s, and possibly also the Duchess’s, lover. After Georgiana’s death, Elizabeth became the Duke’s second wife. The love lives of both women, which included further affairs, their public ménage à trois with the Duke, and the battles between the three protagonists were eagerly followed by a wide public.

    The Duchess of Devonshire and Lady Elizabeth stayed together in Paris twice, between May and August 1790 and again in November and December of 1791. The second stay correlates with a note in Jean-Urbain Guérin’s journal that he made a drawing of the Duchess on 12 November 1791. The miniature can thus be dated to 1791, a time when Georgiana had just been sent into exile by her husband, after becoming pregnant with her daughter Eliza Courtney by the Whig politician Charles Grey. Foster accompanied the Duchess into exile. Guérin’s miniature should be understood as a token of friendship, even love, between the two women, emphasized by the fact that two versions were painted, one for each sitter. Both women returned to England in 1793 to continue their previous living arrangement with the Duke.