Mary Amelia Cecil (née Hill), Marchioness of Salisbury (1750-1835)
Mezzotintpublished 1 December 1781
About the work
Place: British Embassy, UK representation to the EU & UK delegation to NATO
In this portrait after Joshua Reynolds, Mary Amelia Cecil, Marchioness of Salisbury (1750-1835) is depicted full-length in a woody landscape. Displaying a bouffant coiffure, she wears an elegant satin dress and a long glove on her left arm. Her King Charles spaniel catches the end of her dress in his mouth, adding movement to the composition.
A supporter of the monarchy, showing political sympathy for William Pitt the Younger’s government, the sitter was known as a political hostess. Her political rival was Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire (1757–1806). She also engaged in sport, in particular archery and hunting.
About the artist
Valentine Green, engraver of portraits and historical subjects after works by his contemporaries, was born at Salford, Worcestershire. He was intended for a career at the Bar, but without his father’s consent, became apprenticed to an obscure line engraver in Worcester. When he came to London in 1765 he began working in mezzotint and engraved nearly 400 plates over the next 40 years. In 1775 he was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy and was appointed Mezzotint Engraver to George III. In 1789 he obtained the exclusive privilege of engraving the pictures of the Dusseldorf, but was ruined when the city was besieged in 1798. In 1805 he was made Keeper of the newly founded British Institution, a post he retained until his death.
Joshua Reynolds was the dominant artistic personality during the age of George III. He was born in Plympton, Devon. From 1750 to 1752 he studied the work of the Old Masters in Rome. Reynolds returned via Florence and Paris, and settled in London in 1753. In 1759 he painted a portrait of the future king, George, Prince of Wales (Royal Collection). After George’s accession the following year, Reynolds was dismayed to learn that Allan Ramsay had been made Principal Painter to the King. This marked the beginning of increasing hostility between Reynolds and the King. Nonetheless, by 1760 Reynolds had established himself as the leading portraitist. He became President of the Royal Academy in 1768 and was knighted the following year.