Emma Lyon, Lady Hamilton

2 May 2020

Today’s painting by Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun is another one of her portraits of Emma Lyon, Lady Hamilton (1765-1815), whom she painted more than once in Naples in 1792. This particular painting depicts the winsome Emma as a Bacchante and appears to have been one of Vigée Le Brun’s favourite portraits as she kept it in her possession and took it with her during her travels, using it to advertise her talents.

Although Vigée Le Brun clearly very much admired Lady Hamilton’s famous beauty, she was not massively keen on her personality, writing in her memoirs that she ‘was not at all clever, though she was extremely supercilious and disdainful, so much so that these two defects were conspicuous in all her conversation. But she also possessed considerable craftiness, of which she made use in order to bring about her marriage. She lacked style, and dressed very badly when it was a question of everyday attire.’ Oh dear.