Sunday, 14 March 2010

Mothering Sunday

Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire and Lady Georgiana Cavendish, by Joshua Reynolds, 1784.

Today is Mothers' Day over here in the UK. I hastily add the caviat that it is only Mothers' Day here, so as not to send any international readers reaching for their diaries and calendars in a blind panic! In honour of the day, I wanted to share one of my most favourite images of one of the true icons of the eighteenth century; Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. There are few other paintings of the time that convey such a feeling of closeness as this one of Georgiana and her eldest daughter, "Little G". It is a testament to the skill of Reynolds' artistry, but it is also a testament to the relationship between mother and daughter, even at such a young age. 

What I find so lovely about this image is just how engaging it is. Georgiana and Little G's delight in one another is clear; so much so that they seem entirely unconcerned about having their portraits painted. When comparing this image of aristocratic eighteenth century motherhood with others of the time, I'm struck by how stiff and cold they seem in comparison to this warm and natural picture of a maternal bond.

Of course, Georgiana and Little G's relationship was not without it's difficulties and it's upsets, but in this one moment, captured and reflected back to us, the love is clear and the bond unbreakable.

"You are my dear and chosen little friend, for such you would have been to me had I not had the happyness of being your mother." (sic) Georgiana, in a letter to Little G. (Amanda Foreman, Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, Harper Collins, 1998).

Image courtesy of Olga's Gallery

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