‘Emma, Lady Hamilton as a Bacchante’ is one of the many portraits by George Romney of his muse, Emma Hamilton. Emma Hamilton was an English model and actress, who is perhaps best known for being the mistress of Lord Nelson. She was also a significant muse for the portrait painter George Romney. The portrait depicts Emma in the guise of a Bacchante, a female follower of the Greek god of wine, Dionysus (Bacchus in Roman mythology).

The Portrait:

In this work, Romney portrays Emma Hamilton as a Bacchante, invoking classical themes common during the 18th century. Emma is often depicted with expressive gestures and dynamic poses, highlighting her ability to convey a range of emotions and characters, an attribute that made her a favourite subject of many artists. The painting captures a sense of movement and energy, characteristic of the revelry associated with Bacchic rites. The loose, flowing garments and the inclusion of classical elements emphasize the idealized beauty and exotic allure of the subject.

Emma bacchante

Relationship with George Romney:

George Romney was a renowned portrait painter in 18th century England, and Emma Hamilton was one of his most frequent sitters. Their artistic collaboration began in the early 1780s when Emma was in her late teens, and Romney was already an established artist. Emma Hamilton was known for her beauty and her ability to assume different poses and expressions, which made her an ideal model for a portrait painter.

Romney painted Emma Hamilton in various guises, often drawing inspiration from classical mythology, literature, and historical figures. These paintings helped to elevate Emma’s status in society, and she became a celebrated figure in her own right. The series of portraits Romney created of Emma are considered some of his most notable works, showcasing his skill in capturing the human form, emotion, and character.

Romney was captivated by Emma’s beauty and charm, and she became his muse, inspiring a considerable body of his work. There is speculation about the nature of their relationship, but there is no concrete evidence to suggest it was anything beyond a professional artist-model relationship. Emma Hamilton was known to have had romantic relationships with other prominent men of her time, including Sir William Hamilton, whom she married, and Lord Nelson, with whom she had a notorious affair.

The collaboration between George Romney and Emma Hamilton left a lasting legacy in the world of art, with the series of portraits epitomizing the blend of realism and idealization characteristic of 18th-century portraiture.


  • Size (h w d): 60 x 50 cm
  • Framed Size (h w d): 80 x 70 x 4 cm

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