"Lady Hamilton's Attitudes" - info & questions (long)
Posted by Carolyn B on May 23, 1998 at 15:48:40:
I don’t think much has been said of these before, so I thought I’d post some info. (I did a quick search on Hamilton in the archives) For my work I’ve been researching the print series of Lady Hamilton’s Attitudes done by Frederick Rehberg in 1794. Emma Hamilton, wife of Sir William Hamilton, British envoy to Naples, is more commonly remembered as Nelson’s mistress.
For the entertainment of her husband and guests she used to strike classical poses or attitudes, as might be seen in classical friezes or on Greek vases. Her husband commissioned a book of twelve etchings of these poses. You can see these on the ‘net at an Italian site linked below.
The house museum where I work has nine poses and the cover page, which are each framed separately and used to hang in one of the guest bathrooms (appropriately off the Empire bedroom). Our cover page is labeled “Published October 12th, 1797 by S.W. Fores, No. 50 Picadilly, corner of Sackville Street, Prints & Drawings lent out on the Plan of a Circulating Library.” Does anyone know how such an establishment would have worked? And any estimates on how many copies of this publication would have been made to lend out?
Goethe described Lady Hamilton’s “attitudes”:
“She lets down her hair, and with a few shawls gives so much variety to her poses, gestures, expressions etc that the spectator can hardly believe his eyes. He sees what thousands of artists would have liked to express realised before him in movements and surprising transformations standing, kneeling, sitting, reclining, serious, sad, playful, ecstatic, contrite, alluring – one pose follows another without break – in her, he [Hamilton] has found all antiquities, all the profiles of Sicilian coins.”
I found the Goethe quote on the net at a site about Sir William Hamilton and would like to look it up in its full context. Anyone have an idea about the source? It is also quoted at the Italian site linked below, which has more and slightly different text, so I want to find the whole shebang in English.
Can anyone recommend a bio of Lady Hamilton or any other sources that would specifically mention these prints? I’m going to try to make a research expedition or two to the university library this summer (when it’s easier to find parking!)
Also any comments on the practice of entertaining via poses and tableaux vivants? (I think the trans. is "living pictures")
Italian site with images of Lady H's Attitudes
This link takes you to the Italian article about the Hamiltons displayed in a multi-window page (I’m not sure of the technical description ;) where you can click on the links in the text on the left and the images will come up in the window on the right. The default text page that comes up will be titled “La strana coppia,” but the links to the images are on the next page titled “Il museo a Capella Vecchia” in the italicized paragraph quoting Goethe (about the 6th paragraph down). The linked word “particolari” will show you the image of the cover page, and each of the linked words in the text shows you the image illustrating that particular attitude (“ritta in piedi,” etc.). If this sounds to complicated, you can go directly to Il museo a Capella Vecchia and jump back and forth between pages to see the images.
- I guess Madonna didn't invent "vogueing" after all (nfm) Leanne S 12:05:40 5/26/98 (0)
- That last link corrected! Carolyn B 15:52:46 5/23/98 (0)
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