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In Bonnycastle's painting, a woman at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York looks up at Thomas Gainsborough's portrait of Grace Dalrymple Elliot, who was a famous courtesan, writer and spy living in Paris during the French Revolution.

Shady Ladies

A young woman at the Metropolitain Museum of Art in New York City admires Thomas Gainsborough's portrait of Grace Dalrymple Elliott.  Mrs. Elliott was a Scottish courtesan, writer and spy. She was born in Scotland about 1754 to disfunctional upper middle class parents and was raised by her maternal grandparents for much of her young life before being sent to a convent school in France. At 17, she married a wealthy Scottish doctor twice her age. Quickly growing bored with her husband, she began a string of affairs with his friends and circle that led to him divorcing her. She then moved to London and began numerous liaisons with well-connected men that included the Duke of Portland and the Prince of Wales.  Around this time she had a daughter and it is generally thought to have been fathered by the Prince. Later, Grace moved to France to become the mistress of the Duke of Orleans, and during the French Revolution she remained in France smuggling aristocratic families to safety and passing information to the British and French court in exile.  She was eventually suspected of espionage and imprisoned, but survived and was later released.  She died a wealthy woman in 1823 at the age of 69 at a villa outside Paris.  William K. Vanderbilt gifted this portrait to the Met in 1920.


Oil on Hardboard

24 x 18 Inches


Available for Purchase

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