The Playwright’s Wife

Ozias Humphry attrib.


Ozias Humphry first met Elizabeth Ann Linley when he took lodgings with her family in Bath in 1762. She was nine years old at the time and would apparently sing to Humphry whilst he painted. He described her as ‘a rising bud of matchless beauty’. Despite moving to London in 1763, Humphry retained his friendship with the Linley family and is known to have painted Elizabeth’s portrait on more than one occasion.

In addition to her fine singing voice and great beauty, Elizabeth also wrote poetry and involved herself with the Blue Stockings Society, a group of women who meet informally to discuss literature and politics. In 1772 she eloped to France with Richard Brinsley Sheridan, the Irish satirist and playwright (‘The School for Scandal’ being his best known work). Their marriage was tempestuous and both were unfaithful, Elizabeth having an affair with Lord Edward Fitzgerald with whom she had a daughter, Mary. Upon her early death in 1792, her brother wrote to Humphry in India – ‘… harmony was completely hers … it was impossible to contemplate [her] without affection.’

Shown seated and in profile, Elizabeth wears a white dress and a pearl-edged blue pelisse that matches the small pearl and sapphire pin in her head dress.

The portrait resides in the original gold frame, the reverse with a finely engraved border.

Item Ref. 6312

Size: framed, 67 x 54mm

Provenance: D.S. Lavender Antiques 1997 ; Valerie Eliot Collection