Diana the Huntress

Ann Gun-Cuninghame


The inscription beneath this charming scene of Diana the Huntress with her attendants and hounds indicates that it was cut by Jane Gun Cuninghame before her marriage which took place in 1814. The silhouette was sent to a friend as part of a letter. The paper is, however, watermarked W. KENT / 1822 which places it a few years later than the recipient’s recollection.

Born in Waterford in 1791, Jane was the eldest of seven children born to George Gun Cuminghame and his wife Jean. In 1814 she married Francis Jack Needham, 2nd Earl of Kilmorey. The couple had four children. In later years her husband caused quite a scandal by eloping with his ward – she was 20, he was 56! A year later they had a child together. Lord Kilmorey remained infatuated and installed his mistress and son in an adjoining property with a convenient tunnel between the two houses. Poor Jane!

The silhouette is part of a letter sent by Jane to Mrs Elizabeth ? – the name is obscured by the frame but may read Taylor or Sayers. The note on the reverse refers to a monument dedicated to Lady Jane Coke which is actually located in St Mary’s Church in Sunbury. The church there was indeed re-built in 1752 as mentioned in the note. At the foot of the page is written ‘Signature & seal of HRH The Duke of ?’, the significance of which is unclear.

The art of paper-cutting using tiny sharp scissors and pointed quill knives was popularised amongst genteel young ladies by Princess Elizabeth, the third daughter of George III who created an album of cut scenes to illustrate the poem ‘The Birth & Triumph of Cupid’. This scene fits within that style of cutting and shows that Jane was probably inspired by the Princess’s cuttings.

The page has age-browning. It is presented in a later (20th century) ebonised frame with gilded borders and is also glazed on the reverse to show the inscription.

Item Ref. 6129

Size: framed, 207 x 247mm (8 x 9⅝")