Charles Jervas, Irish, c.1675-1739
Title: Portrait of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (1689-1762)
Date: c.1718-1720
Medium: Oil on canvas
216.2 x 127.5 cm
Credit Line: Presented, Mr Louis Cohen, in memory of his brother Israel, 1981
Object Number: NGI.4341
DescriptionLady Mary Pierrepont (1689-1762), contrary to her father's wishes, married Edward Wortley Montagu (1678-1761), a rising Whig politician, and became a notable figure in London society.

In 1716, on the appointment of her husband as British Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, she travelled to Constantinople and remained there for two years. While there she wrote her celebrated Letters, describing life in the East. Showing great admiration for Turkish women and their freedoms, she adopted their costume, thus gaining ready access to public places at Adrianople and Constantinople.

Here she appears in a long, black close-fitting curdée trimmed with sable, which is clasped at the neckline by a brooch. Underneath she wears what appears to be a deep tangerine caftan, with Islamic designs of crescent moon and stars. The girdle worn below waist level, if worn by a wealthy Turkish lady, would have been made entirely of diamonds or other precious stones. Jewelled Turkish slippers and the typical winter head-dress (talpock) complete her costume.

Irish born Jervas was Godfrey Kneller's pupil and assistant in London and spent ten years in Rome and returned to London to set up a successful, fashionable portrait practice. In 1723 he unexpectedly succeeded Kneller as Principal Painter to King George I and retained his position under King George II.
ProvenancePlunket home sale, St. Anne's, Clontarf; presented, Louis Cohen, Dublin, in memory of his brother, Israel, February 1981 (with NGI.4342)
Exhibition HistoryRecent Acquisitions 1980-1981, National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin, 5 August - 27 September 1981
Label TextA celebrated intellectual, in 1716 Lady Mary travelled to Constantinople with her husband the British Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire. She is famous for introducing smallpox inoculation to Western medicine, a practice she witnessed in Turkey. She became an enthusiast for Turkish dress, and is shown here wearing an orange kaftan in front of Constantinople’s Hagia Sophia mosque. The portrait was commissioned as one of a pair, the other being of her friend the Countess of Bridgewater (1689-1714). Both paintings have identical gilt frames with festoons and lambrequins in the style of William Kent.

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