O P E N
S T O R A G E
American, 1738 – 1820
Anne, Countess of Northampton with Her Daughter Elizabeth, 1762
Oil on canvas
51 x 41 in.
Collection of The Bass
Gift of John and Johanna Bass
Born in Springfield, Pennsylvania, Benjamin West received basic art training in Philadelphia before leaving in 1760 to tour Italy for three years. He settled in London in 1763 and attracted the favor of King George III, especially as a history painter. West was the first American painter to achieve international fame. He was elected a foundation member of the Royal Academy in 1768 and succeeded Sir Joshua Reynolds as president in 1792.
Anne, Countess of Northampton (1740/41-1763) was born Lady Anne Somerset, the eldest daughter of the 4th Duke of Beaufort. In 1759 she married Charles Compton, 7th Earl of Northampton. Their daughter Lady Elizabeth Compton was born in 1760. Lord Northampton was appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to Venice in August 1762. He arrived with his family in October and West is thought to have painted the Countess and her daughter very soon afterwards. They are posed as a Madonna and Child with clear reference to compositions by Raphael, in particular the Madonna del Granduca and the Madonna della Sedia.
In 1782, the year of her marriage to Lord Henry Augustus Cavendish, Lady Elizabeth (the child in this painting) was painted at full-length by Sir Joshua Reynolds. This portrait is now in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. Her husband was named Earl of Burlington in 1831.