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The Attitudes of Lady Hamilton

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Venice (probably, published)

  • Date:

    after 1791 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Novelli, Francesco, born 1764 - died 1836 (print-maker)
    Novelli, Pietro Antonio, born 1729 - died 1804 (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Etching, ink on paper

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Leela Meinertas

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 118, The Wolfson Gallery, case 3, shelf DR1

Object Type
This print is an etching. The etching process involves using acid to bite designated lines into a metal plate. These lines are then filled with ink, and the plate is pressed onto paper, thus transferring the image.

Subject Depicted
This print shows Emma, Lady Hamilton (1765-1815) performing her famous 'attitudes', a series of theatrical mimes and poses in which she represented various figures from classical literature, myth and history. She was the wife of Sir William Hamilton (1730-1803), a diplomat, collector and connoisseur.

While performing her 'attitudes', Emma created a living gallery of statues and paintings by clever manipulation of her long shawl, her pose and facial expression, and the use of props, such as a vase. She acted a succession of characters, for example from a Roman maiden making an offering, to a devotional saint, to the classical figure Medea slaying her child. The audiences - connoisseurs and Grand Tourists - for whom Emma performed her poses, would all have recognised the various characters familiar to them in the form of classical sculptures and in depictions in Old Master paintings. Her audiences were profoundly impressed both by how she seemed able to bring to life the characters shown in famous works of art and the emotional intensity she conveyed in a performance.

Emma Hamilton was renowned for her looks, which were often compared to the perfect forms found in ancient Greek statues. In later years she was the lover of the naval hero Admiral Lord Nelson (1758-1805).

Physical description

Etching print on paper

Place of Origin

Venice (probably, published)


after 1791 (made)


Novelli, Francesco, born 1764 - died 1836 (print-maker)
Novelli, Pietro Antonio, born 1729 - died 1804 (artist)

Materials and Techniques

Etching, ink on paper


Height: 20.4 cm unmounted, Width: 32.5 cm unmounted

Object history note

Etched by Francesco Novelli (born in 1729, died in 1804) after Pietro Antonio Novelli (born in 1767, died in 1836); probably published in Venice

Descriptive line

Etching depicting the attitudes of Emma Hamilton

Labels and date

British Galleries:
Emma Hamilton was the wife of Sir William Hamilton, the British representative in Naples who was also an archaeologist and a collector. She was famous for her 'attitudes', a series of theatrical mimes in costume representing figures from classical and other stories. They profoundly impressed viewers with their emotion and their relationship to famous works of art. [27/03/2003]


British Galleries; Prints; Performance art; A Year of Objects: October, Trafalgar Day


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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