I am often asked about the portraits chosen by Sourcebooks as Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy on the covers of the Darcy Saga Sequel Series. Who are they really? Who painted them? A while back I uncovered the secret identities of the gorgeous woman and handsome man who represented Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy. I’ve decided to share the information again for new readers or those who may have forgotten.
Elizabeth Campbell, the Marchesa di Spineto
Elizabeth Campbell was the second wife of the Marchese di Spineto, an Italian nobleman, scholar, and teacher at Cambridge University. The Marchese rose to prominence in 1820 when he acted as interpreter for Theodore Majocchi — Queen Caroline’s servant — during the Queen’s trial for adultery before the House of Lords. (If interested in that bit of history, I’ve included links at the end of this article.) Beyond the trial, there is no further mention of the Marchese di Spineto accomplishing anything specific or noteworthy.
As for the Marchesa, she is even more of a mystery. Nothing was found no matter how extensively I searched. Not even her birth or death dates! The only references I uncovered were vague mentions of her name in two books about other people from the era.
The first is Romilly’s Cambridge Diary 1832-42 (Reverend Joseph Romilly, Fellow of Trinity College and Registrary of The University of Cambridge) with the Marchesa mentioned over twenty times within his diary. In most instances, her name is merely noted as attending church services, and once for not attending service due to being in mourning as a result of her mother’s death.
The second was the biographical book Darwin’s Mentor: John Stevens Henslow, 1796-1861, where the Marchesa is mentioned twice in association with Mr. Henslow. The first is at tea with Mr. and Mrs. Henslow, and Mr. Darwin, and the second note is her presence at a New Year celebration on January 3, 1838.
In the commentary of the book, the authors’ clarify who the “Marchesa” is with the following:
“The marchesa who appears in a number of references to Henslow’s parties was the second wife of the teacher of Italian and French in the University, the Marchese di Spineto. She was born Elizabeth Campbell, a ‘Scotch lady of good reputation’ and she and her husband must have been very popular at the University.”
Strangely, for a woman not obviously “famous” or a major player in Society, the portrait of Elizabeth Campbell was painted by renowned artist Sir Henry Raeburn (1756-1823). The exposition about the painting, from Historical Portraits, is fantastic (color emphasis mine):
Portrait of Elizabeth Campbell, Marchesa di Spineto, c.1812, a painting by Sir Henry Raeburn. The combination of ‘sensibility and sexuality’ that Duncan Thomson detects in Raeburn’s Mrs Robert Scott Moncrieff can be imputed just as much to the present portrait, which was painted, Thomson suggests, at around the same date. The fact that the sitter’s physicality as a woman is as much the subject of the portrait as her intellectual presence produces an image of considerable power, and one that is to be engaged by all the senses. The feeling of sensuality barely restrained by decorum is worthy of the very best work of the romantic painters on the Continent at this date…..
Elizabeth Campbell is one of a number of Raeburn’s portraits painted at this date in which the sitter’s emotion is as much a subject of the painting as her likeness, and perhaps by its comparative restraint, it is one of the most successful. Other examples of female half-length portraits at this date rely for too much of their effect on an extravagance of posture or expression; Elizabeth Campbell’s confident, level gaze makes for a more impressive and intense interaction. Unlike other sitters, whose raptured glance to either side of them inevitably deflect our attention, Elizabeth Campbell contains the sitter’s scrutiny within her own and holds them there. The sitter’s command is total, even over her draperies.
In other compositions a cloak is pulled tighter over the shoulders to be pulled opened at the breast in an almost melodramatic touch. Here the Marchesa’s cloak rests upon the sitter’s back so lightly that, it seems, the slightest movement would cause it to slip off. Against comparable female portraits by Raeburn at this date, less is more in the case of Elizabeth Campbell, and the sitter came equipped with sufficient personality and presence of her own that the painter needed to trust only his own power to interpret his subject without inventing for her any excess of passion.
Doesn’t that description fit Elizabeth Darcy? I think so!
The only other portrait believed to be of Elizabeth Campbell, the Marchesa di Spineto is the one seen to the right. The portrait was painted by George Henry Harlow (1787-1819), of that there is no question, however, he simply titled it “Portrait of a Young Lady.” The majority of Harlow’s portraits indicate who the subject is, but not all of them, so it isn’t completely unusual. The prevailing opinion is that this woman is the mysterious Marchesa di Spineto based on the resemblance to the one above.
Commander Hugh Clapperton
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