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This portrait

depicts the celebrated society hostess, Mary Monckton (1746-1840). A few years after this picture was painted, Fanny Burney described Mary Monckton as ‘between thirty and forty, very short, very fat, but handsome, splendidly and fantastically dressed, rouged not unbecomingly, yet evidently and palpably desirous of gaining notice and admiration. She has an easy levity in her air, manner, voice, and discourse.’ At her parties, Mary Monckton made a point of receiving her guests seated, which is perhaps why Reynolds adopted a similar pose for her in the present portrait.

February 2010