The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
Lady Hamilton as a Bacchante, after Vigée Le Brun
  • Henry Bone (1755 - 1834)
  • After Élisabeth-Louise Vigée Le Brun (1755 - 1842)
  • Lady Hamilton as a Bacchante, after Vigée Le Brun
  • England
  • 1803
  • Miniature
  • Enamel on copper
  • Image size: 22.2 x 28 cm
  • Signature: 'H Bone 1803', the 'H' and 'B' in monogram
    Inscription: 'Emma Hamilton. / London March 1803. Painted for Sir William Hamilton by Henry Bone, A.R.A., / Enamel Painter to H.R.H the Prince of Wales, after a Picture / by Madame L. Vigée le Brun - Painted at Naples in 1790' By the artist
    Inscription: 'Lady Hamilton / Enamel / Henry Bone / 15 Berners Street / London' In ink by the artist
  • M21
  • Front State Room
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • Henry Bone was appointed Enamel Painter to George III, George IV and William IV and achieved extraordinary financial success with his copies in enamel after Old Master paintings. This enamel is after an oil painting by the French artist Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun (1755-1842) now in a private collection. It shows Emma, Lady Hamilton (1765-1815), the famous wife of Sir William Hamilton, British Envoy in Naples, and mistress of the great naval hero Lord Nelson. The original was painted in 1790. Bone’s copy was commissioned by Sir William Hamilton and bequeathed by him to Nelson in the year it was painted. Emma is shown as a bacchante, a follower of Dionysus, the Greek god of wine. However, Vigée Le Brun also referred to the painting as a representation of Ariadne, the daughter of the King of Crete who helped the Greek hero Theseus to escape from the Labyrinth but who was abandoned by him on the island of Naxos (as Emma was abandoned by her first protector Charles Greville). (The ship on the horizon may therefore be carrying the departing Theseus.) In a further twist to this complex image, Emma's long hair, recumbent pose and revealing dress also evoke many traditional represntations of the Magdalen - perhaps an appropriate reference in view of her colourful early history which included time as a prostitute.

    The 4th Marquess of Hertford acquired the miniature in 1859 at the sale of the 2nd Baron Northwick through his London agent Samuel Mawson, who had informed him that 'Lady Hamilton is very beautiful.'