Georgian Portrait Miniature Earl of Whitworth Caroline Russell


Artist: Caroline Russell (1792-1869), after Sir Thomas Lawrence
Subject: Charles Whitworth, 1st Earl of Whitworth (1752-1825)
Medium: Watercolour on Card
Date: c1809

Deriving from Sir Thomas Lawrence’s portrait of 1807, this large “cabinet” miniature of Earl Whitworth, was copied by his niece Caroline Russell. A similar painting by the miniaturist William Grimaldi (1751-1830) is listed in the artist’s catalogue of 1873 (357), having been commissioned by the Earl. This might suggest that Caroline’s talent for painting in miniature was nurtured by Grimaldi, who in the first decade of the 19th century was enjoying the patronage of the future George IV.

Charles Whitworth, 1st Earl Whitworth was a diplomat and politician, who served as the British ambassador in Warsaw, St Petersburg and Paris. Napoleon described him as a “fort bell homme” (a very handsome man), with his likeness being recorded in various portraits.

His attempts to pressure Lawrence to finish his portrait commission in 1807 is perhaps to blame for the bitumen wastage to the body of that painting. Such issues of condition, unheard of in the works of Sir Thomas Lawrence, might suggest that a studio hand was tasked with finishing the body.

Little is known of the early life of Caroline Fortescue, nee Russel (1792-1869), though she was born to Sir Henry Russel, the Chief Justice of Bengal and his second wife Anne Barbara Whitworth, the sister of the present sitter. It likely that she spent much of her early life in India before returning to England with her mother in 1804.

The East India Company at Home project (Warwick University), recalls how in 1809 Lady Russell "took her children to visit their uncle Whitworth at Buckhurst Park…”. It is likely that it was during this visit that Caroline (then 17) was able to copy Lawrence’s portrait (c1807), now in the Louvre. That this painting uses the same colour palate, suggests that it came from the original, as opposed to the print of 1814. It therefore offers a glimpse of how it might have looked, before being irreparably damaged.

In her late twenties Russell fought off the love interest of Ugo Foscolo (1778-1827), a frequent visitor to her family home at 62 Wimpole Street. The two initially bonded over their mutual love of Petrarch, before her beauty and intelligence produced a torrent of frenzied love letters from the poet. In 1821, just 3 years before Caroline married Henry Fortescue of Castle Hill (1796-1875), Foscolo dedicated his only English sonnet to her.

Size (Frame): 43 x 37.5 x 3cm
Size (Image): 27.5 x 21cm
Weight: 1978g