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Portrait of Nancy Carey

Photo by Peter Paul Geoffrion

Portrait of Nancy Carey

Artist: Circle of John Hoppner (British, 1758–1810)
Culture: British, English
Date: c. 1780
Medium: Oil on canvas
94 x 57 3/4 inches (238.8 x 146.7 cm)
Frame: 109 1/2 x 73 inches (278.1 x 185.4 cm)
Classification: Painting
Credit Line: Gift of Ms. Mary Duke Biddle
Label Text:This painting’s subject is thought to be Nancy Carey, who was a traveling actress and street vendor. Despite her refined appearance in this portrait, Carey spent much of her life in poverty after running away from home at age fifteen. She is likely represented as either a gleaner, a person who gathers left-over crops after the main harvesting is finished, or the Roman goddess of fertility, Ceres. Carey is shown standing in a field holding a sheaf of wheat under her arm while workers harvest the crop behind her. While gleaners are traditionally portrayed as peasants, Carey is shown in a fashionable white dress and elegant blue satin shoes.

John Hoppner was one of the most esteemed portraitists in Britain in the late 1700s, and eventually became the official portrait painter of the Prince of Wales (who was crowned King George IV in 1820). Hoppner’s portraits were praised for their likeness to the sitter and their rich, intense color.

Provenance: Condover Hall collection, Shropshire, England; purchased May 21, 1903 through (Robinson and Fisher, London) by (M. Knoedler & Co., New York); purchased October 20, 1913 by (P. and D. Colnaghi & Co., London); purchased 1916 by (Ehrich Galleries, New York); purchased by Benjamin Newton Duke [1855-1929]; by inheritance to Mary Duke Biddle [1887-1960]; gift 1942 to Duke University; extended loan 1993 to Duke University Museum of Art, now Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University.
Object number: 1993.1.1
In Collection(s)