The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
Maria Fagnani, 3rd Marchioness of Hertford
  • Miniature
  • Maria Fagnani, 3rd Marchioness of Hertford
  • Richard Cosway (1742 - 1821)
  • England
  • 1791
  • Painted on ivory
  • Image size: 7.6 x 6.3 cm
  • Signature: 'R.d. Cosway / R.A. / Primarius Pictor /Serenissimi Walliae / Principis / Pinxit / 1791' In ink
    Inscription: 'Maria Fagniani by Cosway 1791.' Engraved
    Credit line: Presented by The Art Fund
  • 2007.2
  • Reserve Vault 2
Commentary
History
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • Maria Fagnani (1771 – 1856) was the illegitimate daughter of the Marchesa Fagnani, an Italian former dancer. In 1798 Maria married Francis Charles Seymour-Conway (1777 – 1842), from 1822 3rd Marquess of Hertford. The 3rd Marquess became the first great collector of the family. He acquired outstanding Dutch paintings, French furniture and Sèvres porcelain. His ambitious collecting was partly made possible by the enormous fortune that his wife brought into the family. Both George Augustus Selwyn and the 4th Duke of Queensbury left Maria Fagnani, known as Mie-Mie, their considerable fortunes because each man regarded her as his daughter. Together with the Hertford family fortune, her money assured the family enormous wealth, a consideration which might have helped to smooth over the difficulties of her turbulent and socially unequal marriage to the future 3rd Marquess.

    Richard Cosway painted this miniature of Fagnani in 1791, eight years before the wedding and at a time when her future husband was only fourteen. It was not commissioned by the much younger future 3rd Marquess, but entered the family collection during the lifetime of the 4th Marquess, Fagnani’s son. He is known to have kept a miniature of her under the pillow of his bed.

    This miniature is a typical work by Cosway. The blue background, the soft and pale colour-scheme based on the sophisticated use of the ivory colour of the ground and the slight stippling are typical of his work around 1790.