Emma, Lady Hamilton, in a classical pose, dancing and poised on her right foot

This is plate VI of a set of twelve engravings by Piroli after the German artist Rehberg, published in 1794. All are of the ‘attitudes’ for which Emma Hamilton was celebrated throughout Europe. In her performances of these, which she first began about 1786, Emma adopted poses taken from classical sculpture or Renaissance painting: at one point Sir William Hamilton even constructed a special box with a black border for her to pose in, to imitate more closely the appearance of a framed painting. She was certainly encouraged by her husband’s love of the antique, and performed the ‘attitudes’ not just in Naples, where Rehberg made his drawings for these plates, but throughout the courts of Europe.

Numerous contemporary descriptions praise both her skill at adopting poses that would have been easily recognizable to connoisseurs steeped in a classical education and her own naturally ‘classical’ beauty.This image appears to show her as Terpsichore, the Muse of Dance. An observant early owner of the set has written in pencil on the bottom of the print: 'Beautifully copied from the fig[ure] on Vase. Plate V. ante' (i.e. the previous plate, PAD3220). Rehberg’s publication was highly popular, running to several editions: so much so that it was lampooned in 1807 by (probably) James Gillray, who substituted for the graceful, classically proportioned body of Rehberg’s prints a ‘considerably enlarged’ figure, truer to the by then excessively fat Lady Hamilton, in what was termed a ‘new edition … humbly dedicated to all admirers of the grand and sublime’.

Object Details

ID: PAD3221
Type: Print
Display location: Not on display
Creator: Piroli, Thomas; Rehberg, Frederick Rehberg, after Frederick
Date made: 1794
People: Hamilton, Emma
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Parts: Drawings Faithfully copied From Nature at Naples and with permission dedicated To the Right Honourable Sir William Hamilton (Album)

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