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Stipple Engraving of Emma Hamilton (née Lyon), circa 1809
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Stipple Engraving of Emma Hamilton (née Lyon), circa 1809

Measurements: Overall: 30.5cm (12in) x 30.5cm (12in)



Stipple engraving after George Romney’s ‘Sensibility’ in which the Emma’s hand is shown reaching out towards a touch-sensitive mimosa plant. Applied verso with old backing bearing the trade label of art dealers Leggatt Brothers of Cheapside, Fenchurch Street and Cornhill, together with a second period label inscribed ‘Sensibility / Engraved by Caroline Watson Engraver to Her Majesty, from the original Picture.’ Contained in modern verre eglomisé and ebonised wood frame.

Emma, Lady Hamilton (1765-1815), mistress of Lord Nelson and muse of George Romney, represented as ‘Sensibility’ in a rare image by the stipple engraver Caroline Watson. Watson produced three circular portrait head engravings of Emma Hamilton, these being in the attitude of Sensibility as presented here; as ‘Miranda’, published 1809, from Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’; and as ‘Cassandra’ after Romney’s portrait of Emma painted for his friend and biographer William Hayley. Emma met Romney in 1782, when she was about sixteen years of age, through her ‘protector’ Charles Greville. Romney was captivated by her and she became his favourite model until Greville passed her on to the protection of his uncle, Sir William Hamilton, the British ambassador to the Kingdom of Naples. They married in 1791. Lady Hamilton became a close friend of Queen Maria Carolina, the sister of Marie Antoinette, and the wife of Ferdinand I of Naples. As wife of the British Envoy, Emma welcomed Nelson in 1793, when he came to gather reinforcements against the French. Nelson returned to Naples five years later, on 22 September 1798, a living legend, having secured his victory at the Nile. However, his adventures had prematurely aged him: he had lost an arm and most of his teeth, and was afflicted by bouts of coughing.

Caroline Watson (circa 1761–1814) engraved works by Reynolds and Romney and was engraver to Queen Charlotte. Watson learnt her trade from her father, the Irish engraver James Watson. She died at Pimlico on 10 June 1814. In 1784 she engraved a portrait of Prince William of Gloucester, after Joshua Reynolds, and in 1785 a pair of small plates of the Princesses Sophia and Mary, after John Hoppner, which she dedicated to the Queen.