Strategies for Showing: Women, Possession, and Representation in English Visual Culture, 1665-1800

By Marcia Pointon | Go to book overview

most delightful scene. Pavilions adjoining the rooms were erected for serving the company with tea and refreshments. The ladies all appeared in white.

At the conclusion of the ball the Princess Elizabeth reconducted her company back to the house to supper. The Princess Amelia leaned on the arm of the Prince of Wales. In the supper room a beautiful transparency was displayed in compliment to the Princess Amelia; on the tablet were the words 'the offering of Gratitude for restored health'.111

The reference to Vauxhall, where Mary Moser's father had been responsible for designing decorative items, must by this date have been nostalgic, recalling the now faded beauties of that archetypal pastoral pleasure ground, replete with its promise of social and erotic intercourse. A place of enchantment made of artificial and natural flowers, rustic seats, and women dressed in white; this is a royal version of Richard Graves's vision of the Graces and a fantasy that readers of Erasmus Darwin The Botanic Garden would have recognized in its mingling into one fecund confusion flowers natural and artificial, insects, and nubile female figures. It is, however, new technology that provides the tour de force; the illuminated emblem (echoing the heraldic paintings by Mary Moser) serving to set the stamp on a theatre in which nature is processed as self-conscious artifice.112 Moser's work at Frogmore must have provided a permanent reminder -- in winter as well as summer -- of the fêtes held there and lent gravitas to those celebrations which, with their stress on emblem and ritual, likewise establish the medium in which Moser's work overall may best be understood.


Notes
1.
S. Lloyd, Richard and Maria Cosway: Regency Artists of Taste and Fashion ( Edinburgh: National Galleries of Scotland, 1995), 42.
2.
The other muses are: Elizabeth Montagu, Elizabeth Carter, Charlotte Lennox, Catherine Macaulay, Anna Barbauld, Elizabeth Griffith, Elizabeth Sheridan, and Hannah More. For a discussion of this work see S. H. Myers, The Blue Stocking Circle: Women, Friendship and the Life of the Mind in Eighteenth-Century England ( Oxford, 1990), 276-7. The representation is, of course, highly conventionalized and it would be erroneous to imagine that any such meeting ever took place.
3.
See Wendy Wassing Roworth, Angelica Kauffman: A Continental Artist in Georgian England ( London, 1992).
4.
See e.g. R. Parker and G. Pollock, Old Mistresses: Women, Art and Ideology ( London, 1981), 28. As women Kauffman and Moser were not admitted to the Life Class. However, caution is needed in discussions of both women artists and academies (the most reliable account of which is to be found in I. Bignamini and M. Postle, The Artist's Model: Its Role in British Art from Lely to Etty ( Nottingham, 1991)). It should also be noted that these portraits fall within a long tradition for the representation of absent but venerated members of a body through imago clipeata (see M. Pointon, Hanging the Head: Portraiture and Social Formation in Eighteenth- Century England ( New Haven, 1992), 65-6).

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