New acquisition at NPG

June 7 2011

Image of New acquisition at NPG

Picture: National Portrait Gallery, London

The NPG in London has acquired this very fine pastel by Daniel Gardner, The Three Witches from Macbeth. The picture shows Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, Elizabeth, Viscountess Melbourne and Anne Seymour Damer, the sculptor. It was acquired through the Acceptance in Lieu scheme. Says the NPG's catalogue entry:

This unusual group portrait depicts three of the most notorious women of the late 18th century. They were intimate friends sharing a common passion for Whig politics and the arts. Whereas Lady Melbourne had been friends with Anne Seymour Damer since the early 1770s, the friendship with Georgiana was fairly recent and this pastel may in part be related to Melbourne’s desire to publicize their friendship. While all three women are described as having enjoyed attending private theatricals and tableaux vivants, Gardner’s choice of the cauldron scene from Macbeth can also be related to their shared and shadowy political machinations as leading members of the Devonshire House circle. The composition has no parallel in Gardner’s oeuvre and it is assumed that either Damer or Melbourne suggested the design. 

I find the last suggestion a little odd - Gardner was a pretty good artist, and his compositions are varied enough. I don't think it would have been beyond his powers to come up with the grouping himself. He need only have read Shakespeare's stage direction for the scene (act IV, scene 1), which states - 'A cavern. In the middle, a boiling cauldron. Thunder. Enter three Witches.'

Today's announcement was twinned with news of an exciting exhibition at the NPG this autumn; The First Actresses: Nell Gwyn to Sarah Siddons runs from 20th October 2011 to 8th January 2012. More here.

Notice to "Internet Explorer" Users

You are seeing this notice because you are using Internet Explorer 6.0 (or older version). IE6 is now a deprecated browser which this website no longer supports. To view the Art History News website, you can easily do so by downloading one of the following, freely available browsers:

Once you have upgraded your browser, you can return to this page using the new application, whereupon this notice will have been replaced by the full website and its content.