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This portrait shows Mary Ann Yates in the role that raised her to eminence as a tragic actress, that of the Chinese princess, Mandane, in Arthur Murphy's adaptation of Voltaire's novel 'The Orphan of China'. She performed the part many times between 1759 and 1767. The actress was admired for her majestic manner and deportment, which the artist has captured here. This is one of the first examples of Kettle's Grand Manner, modelled on that of Reynolds.
Perhaps to escape Reynolds's dominance of London society portraiture, Kettle went to India in 1769, one of the first serious painters to do so. He built up a flourishing portrait practice there but never recaptured his early success when he returned to Europe in 1776.

August 2004