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This unfinished, life-size sketch in oil paint represents the 17-year-old Emma Hart (1765–1815) in the character of the sorceress Circe from Greek mythology. This painting was one of the first of Romney’s numerous portraits of Hart, which often represent her as characters from myth and literature. Hart sat many times to Romney in the summer of 1782, after she had become the mistress of the aristocratic politician and collector Charles Greville (1749–1809), moving into his home at Edgware Row, Paddington. She later married Sir William Hamilton, Greville’s uncle, and became the mistress of Admiral Lord Nelson.

February 2016