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Pippa Rathborne's SCRATCH POST

PART FIVE of ROMANTIC FICTIONS AND CASUALTIES

two sistersbuckAdam Buck, Two Sisters, print, 1796. London.
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Sense and sensibility, reason and passion, love and illusion, neoclassicism and romanticism dancing on the eve of cataclysm.
During the years 1795 to 1797, while the two elder Siddons sisters were engaged in their own danse macabre with Thomas Lawrence, Jane Austen wrote her first draft of the novel that was eventually published in 1811 as Sense and Sensibility.

It should have been the end, the two beautiful girls consumed by passion and disease, but the Tragic Muse had another daughter, only nine years old when her eldest sister died, a child with a name like the peal of golden bells under a blue sky, a tiny Buddha with a ferocious will [1] and eyes that glared like a torch in the night on the charades and vacillations…

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Pippa Rathborne's SCRATCH POST

ROMANTIC FICTIONS AND CASUALTIES
Part one

artistpaintingamusiciangerardMarguerite Gérard, Artist Painting a Portrait of a Musician, c. 1803. Oil on panel.
The Hermitage, St. Petersburg. Image source: WGA

One autumn long ago, while Britain was at war with France, and the people at home were rejoicing at the Royal Navy’s victory under Nelson at the Battle of the Nile that stopped Napoleon from conquering the Middle East as he had done mainland Europe, while Irish rebels were fighting their English oppressors with the help of the French, while Jenner’s findings on vaccination against the mass killer small-pox were newly in print, while Haydn completed Die Schöpfung, inspired by hearing Handel’s oratorio’s in England, and Beethoven, gripped by fears of deafness, composed his ‘Pathétique’ Piano Sonata, while readers were being introduced to a new kind of poetry in Coleridge and Wordsworth’s collection of Lyrical Ballads, and to a new kind of…

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Pippa Rathborne's SCRATCH POST

Thomas-Lawrence croftSir Thomas Lawrence, (Isabella) Mrs. Jens Wolff, painted 1803 – 1815.  © The Art Institute of Chicago, Mr. and Mrs. W. W. Kimball Collection.

She sits in profile, rapturously contemplating an art book, brightly illuminated by a hanging lamp, the dark mysterious recesses of an arch behind her. An artist wants a picture to tell its own story; but we, the viewers, the readers, the audience, we lap up gossipy biographical details that add to our emotional titillation. Lawrence and the willowy, poised divorcee, with her distinguished aquiline features and slim modern figure, her intelligent expression and taste in contemporary and Renaissance art (her rapture is ostensibly aroused by studying Michelangelo, not by her consciousness of being studied herself) were bound in a relationship that lasted till his death.

Part Four of THE CHARACTER OF LIGHT

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This fascinating post has been re-blogged from Pippa Rathborne’s CONTRAblog.  Enjoy!

Sarah Martha Siddons, c.1795, portrayed and betrayed by the Romantic painter, Thomas Lawrence.
Private Collection. Image source: Wikipedia
“Whenever I meet his eyes…it is like an electric shock to me”

SALLY SIDDONS

Sally (1775-1803) and her sister Maria (1779 -1798) were both in love with the gifted and ambitious portrait painter Thomas Lawrence, a friend of their mother’s, the actress Sarah Siddons. The whole family had known him well for several years. In his mid-twenties, he looked like a romantic hero, graceful, dark and delicately featured, complete with soul-piercing eyes, and behaved with the destructive emotional immaturity to which many former child prodigies are susceptible. He courted both girls in turn, initially forming an attachment to Sally, then announcing that he was in love with the younger girl, Maria, who was already showing symptoms of consumption. Months later, he confessed that it was really Sally he had loved all along, and his engagement to Maria was broken off. He seems to have been genuinely confused about his feelings – Mrs Siddons, always indulgent of him, thought he was quixotic – but that wasn’t really the point, and entirely escaped the egotist.

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Take care and keep laughing!

Sarah

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