Dorothea Bland, 'Mrs Jordan' as 'Peggy' in 'The Country Girl' (1762-1816)

On display in:

Baron's Room

Order image © All images subject to copyright

Artist or maker

Romney, George (b.1734, d.1802)

Date

1786-1787

dated from sittings

Place of production

  • London, England, United Kingdom

Medium

  • oil on canvas

Type of object

  • paintings

Accession number

2467

Three-quarter length oil portrait of Mrs Jordan (Dorothea Bland) as 'Peggy' in 'The Country Girl'. Her body faces the left, with her head turned to look at the viewer. Her hands are raised in front of her chest with her fingers touching. Her hair falls in loose ringlets over her shoulders. She wears a white dress withe a blue sash. The skirt sweeps back to suggest movement forward. In the background there is a door and curtain to the left, with a cloudy sky and a column to the right.

Dorothea Bland was a famous actress who went by the name of Mrs Jordan. This painting is thought to show her in her debut London role of Peggy, from the play written by David Garrick called 'The Country Girl'. However, it was first engraved under the title 'The Romp', referring to another of Dorothea's famous parts: Priscilla Tomboy.

Commentary

Dorothea's movement towards the door, suggested by her swishing skirt, supports the engraving's identification. One of Romney's contemporaries recorded in his diary that Romney had told him that when Dorothea came to sit for him, they were both undecided about what pose she should adopt. She struck a pose from the play 'The Romp', in which she played Tomboy, and read her line 'Well, I'm-a-going'. Romney instantly exclaimed 'That will do!' and painted her in that pose.

The spontaneity of Dorothea's pose is unusual in Romney's work. His highly successful portrait business meant that his works can often seem repetitive and monotonous. He also tended to emphasise the exterior elegance of his sitters rather than the traits of his character. This portrait has been admired for its rare empathy. Romney was the third most popular portraitist of his day after Joshua Reynolds and Thomas Gainsborough. Although he aspired to create grand works with historical subjects, portraits provided his main trade. Between 1776 and 1795 he painted over 1500 sitters, many of whom commissioned two or three portraits.

Dorothea began her career in Dublin, where she was cruelly treated and impregnated by her theatre manager Mr Daly. She escaped across the water to London - an experience that gave rise to her stage name: Jordan referring to the river crossed by the Israelites from slavery to freedom. She is also reputed to have said that she 'shed tears enough to overflow the Jordan' because of Daly's treatment.

As well as being an accomplished tragic and comic actress, Dorothea became the mistress of Sir Richard Ford and then the Duke of Clarence (later William IV). The Duke paid for this painting in 1791, four years after it was finished. After Dorothea's death, it passed to her youngest son with the Duke, whose wife sold it to Ferdinand de Rothschild around 1884.

Phillippa Plock, 2011

Physical description

Dimensions (mm) / weight (mg)

1510 x 1193

Signature & date

not signed or dated

Inscriptions

The property of Augustus FitzClarence. Sarah E.C. FitzClarence
Inscription
on verso

History

Provenance

  • Paid for by the Duke of Clarence (later William IV, b.1765, d.1837), and sent to Petersham Lodge in 1791; probably owned by the sitter Dorothea Bland (b.1761, d.1816); by descent to her son Reverend Lord Augustus Fitzclarence (b.1805, d.1854); inherited by his wife Lady Sarah E. C. Gordon Fitzclarence (d.1901); bought by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild (b.1839, d.1898) from Lady Sarah Fitzclarence on or before 1884; inherited by his sister Alice de Rothschild (b.1847, d.1922); inherited by her great-nephew James de Rothschild (b.1878, d.1957); bequeathed to Waddesdon The Rothschild Collection (The National Trust) in 1957.

Exhibition history

  • Royal Academy Exhibition, 1884, London, no. 200, lent by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild

Collection

  • Waddesdon (National Trust)
  • Bequest of James de Rothschild, 1957
Bibliography

Bibliography

  • Humphry Ward, William Roberts; Romney: a biographical and critical essay, with a catalogue raisonnĂ© of his works; 2 vols; London; Thomas Agnew & Sons Ltd.; 1904; vol. 1, p. 69; vol. 2, pp. 86-87
  • Ellis Waterhouse, The English Pictures at Waddesdon Manor, Gazette des Beaux-Arts, 54, August 1959, 49-56; p. 56, fi.g 4
  • Ellis Waterhouse, Anthony Blunt; Paintings: The James A. de Rothschild Collection at Waddesdon Manor; Fribourg; Office du Livre, The National Trust; 1967; p. 100, cat. no. 38, ill.
  • Daniel Healy; Parknasilla the Centenary Book; Dun Laoghaire; Great Southern Hotels; 1995; p. 7
  • Claire Tomalin; Mrs Jordan's Profession; London; Penguin Books; 1995; pp. 328-329
  • Barry E Maclean-Eltham; George Romney: paintings in public collections; Kendal; Romney Society; 1996; p. 38
  • David A Cross; A Striking Likeness: The Life of George Romney; Aldershot; Ashgate Publishing; 2000; p. 109
  • Paula Byrne; Jane Austen and the Theatre; London, New York; The Hambledon Press; 2002; Cover, Back & Front
  • Shearer West; Romney's Theatricality; Alex Kidson, Those Delightful Regions of Imagination: Essays on George Romney (Studies in British Art 9), New Haven, Yale University Press, 2002; 131-158; p. 157, n. 51
  • David Alexander; active 1985; A Reluctant Communicator: George Romney and the Print Market; Alex Kidson, Those Delightful Regions of Imagination: Essays on George Romney (Studies in British Art 9), New Haven, Yale University Press, 2002; 251-288; p. 280; Boydell print
  • Gill Perry, Staging Gender and "Hairy Signs", Eighteenth-Century Studies, 38, 2004, 145-163; pp. 146, 148
  • Amanda Vickery; The Gentleman's Daughter; London; The Folio Society (London); 2006; pp. 256-257, fig. 3
  • Alex Kidson; George Romney: A Complete Catalogue of his Paintings; 3; New Haven, London; The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, Yale University Press; 2015; vol. 2, pp. 337-338, cat. no. 737

Related files

Other details

Subject person

  • Dorothea Bland, Sitter