The Daring Lady Di

Lady Diana BeauclerkNicola here. A couple of weeks ago I gave a talk and a tour at Lydiard House on the subject of Lady Diana Beauclerk, an 18th century aristocrat who was very unusual in her time for working as a professional artist. Born Lady Diana Spencer in 1734, the daughter of the 3rd Duke of Marlborough, she was for a while Lady St John, mistress of Lydiard House and wife to Frederick, 2nd Viscount Bolingbroke. Lady Diana’s life story is extraordinary both personally and professionally but the bit I wanted to focus on was her undoubted talents as a painter and the way in which these had been downplayed because she was a woman and a scandalous one at that. It was a particular pleasure to be giving the talk at Lydiard House, where we could follow in her footsteps in the house and garden and see the influence that her life there had on her art. In the “Diana Room” at Lydiard we also have the largest collection of her work in the UK.

Lady Diana Spencer was the eldest daughter of the 3rd Duke of Marlborough. She was born in 1734 and spent some of her childhood at Blenheim Palace. There was a great deal of fine art there to inspire her; one of her earliest childhood drawings was a pastel of a baby based on a Rubens painting that hung there and chubby Rubenesque cherubs remained a motif of her drawing all of her life. This was how she initially learned to draw and paint, through seeing artistic images and creating her own versions of them.

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An Artist Extraordinaire

Vl 1Andrea here, As some of you might know, I occasionally enjoy weaving real-life people into my historical mystery novels when I feel their presence adds depth and texture to the story. Sometimes they are prominent in the plot, and sometimes they are merely used as a passing reference to add a flash of color.

I have a new Arianna mystery nearly finished. It’s set in St. Petersburg, and my research into detail about the glittering Russian Imperial Court turned up the fact that Elizabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun, the French portrait artist, was hugely popular with the Russian aristocracy. Indeed, it was considered a status symbol to have one’s portrait painted by her. So I threw this in as a tiny detail . . . (see portraits below)


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