Monday, March 18, 2013

Painting of the Day: Frederick Ponsonby, 3rd Earl of Bessborough

Frederick Ponsonby, 3rd Earl Bessborough
Richard Cosway, c. 1780
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Okay, let me just say that I’m going to try to succinctly summarize the very long and complicated family tree that goes with this portrait. However, there’s just too much history to include all of it here, so I urge you to do a little more research if these folks interest you.

This head and shoulders watercolor on ivory portrait set in a diamond frame from about 1780 is one of a pair by Richard Cosway (RA, 1742-1821). This chap is Frederick Ponsonby, 3rd Earl of Bessborough (son of William Ponsonby, 2nd Earl Bessborough) who married Lady Henrietta Frances Spencer in November 1780. It is believed that the pair of portraits served as their wedding pictures.

So…Frederick and Lady Henrietta had four aristocratic children—one of whom was Lady Caroline Lamb, the famed authoress and wife of Lord Melbourne who would go on to become Prime Minister under Queen Victoria.

You may think the name “Ponsonby” has another connection to Queen Victoria. And, you’d be right. Frederick and Henrietta’s son, John, was Lord Lieutenant of Ireland under Victoria. These are two of Britain’s most important families. As I said, just a quick search will reveal all sorts of nifty information. Just come back here when you’re finished. 

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