Portrait of Frances  Anne Vane, Marchioness of Londonderry thumbnail 1
Portrait of Frances  Anne Vane, Marchioness of Londonderry thumbnail 2
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Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Leighton, room 109

Portrait of Frances Anne Vane, Marchioness of Londonderry

Oil Painting
1831 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This portrait was painted to commemorate the attendance of Frances Anne, Marchioness of Londonderry at the coronation of William IV in Westminster Abbey in 1831. She is wearing many of her celebrated collection of jewels, partly inherited, partly bought from the wealth of her coalmines, and partly the gift of Tsar Alexander I. Frances Anne was one of the most celebrated society hostesses of her day. Following the death of her husband, Charles William Vane, 3rd Marquess of Londonderry, she took control of their coalmining interests and established herself as formidable business woman.


object details
Category
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Oil painting on canvas
Brief Description
Oil painting, Portrait of Frances Anne Vane, Marchioness of Londonderry, by Alexandre-Jean Dubois-Drahonet, French school, 1831
Physical Description
Portrait of a woman, full length, facing the viewer with head turned slightly to the viewer’s right, wearing red, white and gold Peeress’s robes decorated with pearls and jewels and wearing a tiara. Left hand on left hip, right hand holds gloves and rests on a stone newel post carved with the arms of the sitter and inscribed with the initials ‘F.A.V.L’. Behind a swag curtain is seen a view of the interior of Westminster Abbey.
Dimensions
  • Height: 268.6cm
  • Width: 178.4cm
Style
Marks and Inscriptions
Signed and dated lower left 'AJ Dubois Drahonet 1831'; and inscribedcentre left 'FAVL' (Signed and dated twice)
Gallery Label
The Marchioness of Londonderry was a wealthy heiress and a society hostess. This portrait shows her in the court dress she wore at the Coronation of King William IV in 1831. Among the many jewels fastened to her dress are turquoises that can be seen in the Jewellery gallery (The Londonderry Jewels, case 24). Benjamin Disraeli wrote of Frances Anne that she ‘looked like an Empress’ and ‘blazed among the peeresses’. (29/05/2015)
Credit line
Lent through the generosity of William and Judith, Douglas and James Bollinger
Object history
Charles William Vane, 3rd Marquess of Londonderry (1778-1854); Frances Anne, Marchioness of Londonderry, by descent to the Marquesses of Londonderry, bought their sale Christie's London, 23 May 2014, lot 472, by the present owner; on long-term loan at the V&A
Historical context
This magnificent portrait was painted to commemorate the attendance of Frances Anne, Marchioness of Londonderry at the coronation of William IV in Westminster Abbey on the 8 September 1831. The jewels sewn to her dress include the turquoises she bought from Count Palffy in Vienna, and, at the bottom of her dress, a large pink topaz given to her by Tsar Alexander I of Russia. These can be recognised among the Londonderry Jewels, which are on loan to the V&A from the Marquess of Londonderry and are displayed in their current settings in the William and Judith Bollinger Jewellery Gallery.



Frances Anne Vane-Tempest (1800-1865) was the only child of Sir Henry Vane-Tempest, Bt. (1771–1813) and his wife, Anne Catherine MacDonnell (d. 1834), Countess of Antrim in her own right. On her father’s death in 1813, Frances Anne became the richest heiress of her generation. In 1819 she married Charles William, Baron Stewart, then British Ambassador in Vienna. He was half-brother to Viscount Castlereagh, the Foreign Secretary and on the latter’s death, became 3rd Marquess of Londonderry in 1822. Following his marriage to Frances Anne, he changed his surname to Vane.



Known for her haughty arrogance, it has been written of Frances Anne that she was, while her husband was alive, “if not typical of her class, then at least an exaggerated caricature of it: autocratic, extravagant, and proud, she was Jane Austen's Lady Catherine de Bourgh made flesh” (K.D. Reynolds, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography). But her lively letters suggest, and her widowhood confirms, that there was more to her than a mere caricature. When Benjamin Disraeli became Prime Minister in 1874 he remembered her as ‘the grande dame who was so kind to me in my youth though she was a tyrant in her way, but one remembers only the good in her’ (Frances Anne, p. 301).



Accompanying her husband to Vienna, Frances Anne won the admiration of Tsar Alexander I whom she described as ‘a beneficent Genie sent to do goodness to all who come across his path or within reach of his smiles, while his own happiness seems derived from conferring favours on others’ (Frances Anne, p. 90). From him, she received the large pink topaz seen in the painting, as well as a number of the other jewels currently on loan to the Jewellery Gallery.



After returning to England in 1823, Frances Anne became the most celebrated society hostess of her day, entertaining the conservative aristocracy and aspiring politicians, including the young Benjamin Disraeli. At the Coronation of Queen Victoria in 1838, Disraeli described the Marchioness as ‘blazing among the peeresses’ and looking ‘like an Empress’ (Frances Anne, p. 205). Following the death of her husband in 1854, Frances Anne took control of the huge coalmining and shipping concern that was the basis of her fortune and established herself as a formidable business woman. On visiting her at Seaham Hall, Co. Durham in 1861, Disraeli wrote of the Marchioness;



“on the shores of the German Ocean (North Sea), surrounded by her collieries and her blast furnaces and her railroads and the unceasing telegraphs, with a port hewn out of solid rock, screw steamers and four thousand pitmen under her control...she has a regular office…and here she transacts, with innumerable agents, immense business – and I remember her five-and-twenty years ago a mere fine lady; nay, the finest in London! But one must find excitement if one has brains.” (Letters, p. 268).



The caring – as opposed to the autocratic - side of her paternalism was expressed in speeches to the miners urging them send their children to the schools she had built, and to follow safe procedures underground: ‘I never can see you, individually or collectively, without repeating to you my entreaties and my warnings to be careful and prudent…It makes my blood run cold to dwell on these fearful risks, and I think that any great calamity among you would break my heart’ (Frances Anne, p. 281).



The painter of this portrait, Alexandre-Jean Dubois-Drahonet (1791-1829) was born and raised in Paris. A student of Jean-Baptiste Regnault (1754-1829) at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, he exhibited at the Salon between 1812 and 1834, winning a medal in 1827. Dubois-Drahonet was primarily a portraitist and worked for the French courts of Charles X and Louis-Philippe. In 1832 he was commissioned by William IV to paint the future Queen Victoria (RCIN 407006, Royal Collection Trust). This was part of a much larger commission to paint a series of ninety pictures illustrating recent changes in the uniforms and weapons of the British Army (Royal Collection Trust). Dubois-Drahonet's work is characterised by confident compositions, particularly in his large-scale portraits and a clarity of line and command of light and shade. His works are held by a number of Continental European museums in France (Portrait of Henri, Comte de Chambord, Duc de Bordeauxs, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Bordeaux) Italy (Portrait of the Princess Marie de Valois, Museo di Capodimonte, Naples) and The Netherlands (Frans Hals Museum, Haarlem). However paintings by Dubois-Drahonet are relatively scarce in British museums.



It is not clear how Dubois-Drahonet came to paint the Marchioness of Londonderry, as he was a primarily active on the continent. It is possible that the Londonderry's had encountered Dubois-Drahonet's work while living in Vienna and the Coronation portrait commission may have been inspired by the artist's 1827 portrait of the Duchesse de Berry in a heavily jewelled gown (Musée Picardie, Amiens, Inv. AMIENS M.P. 70) Additionally, Britain's preeminent society portaitist, Sir Thomas Lawrence, who had previously painted two portraits of Frances Anne, had died in 1830 and left no obvious British successor.



As well as the pink topaz and the suite of turquoises already mentioned, the pearl earrings worn by Frances Anne in the portrait are probably from the set of pearls given to her by her husband to celebrate the birth of thier son in Vienna in 1821. The yellow stone towards the bottom right of the panel of jewels on her dress may be identified as a yellow diamond given to her by Tsar Alexander I. All these jewels are displayed in the Jewellery Gallery (Cases 24 and 79). Frances Anne’s girdle set with diamonds was unset in 1854 by R. & S. Garrard & Co, the royal jeweller, to make a tiara (Scarisbrick, p. 175), probably the precursor of the lighter tiara now displayed in the Jewellery Gallery (Case 24)



This portrait is an important representation of a British aristocrat wearing jewellery of the highest quality and a record of many of the Londonderry jewels during the period that they first came to prominence. The painting is also a rare example of Dubois-Drahonet's work in a British Museum.

Subject depicted
Place Depicted
Summary
This portrait was painted to commemorate the attendance of Frances Anne, Marchioness of Londonderry at the coronation of William IV in Westminster Abbey in 1831. She is wearing many of her celebrated collection of jewels, partly inherited, partly bought from the wealth of her coalmines, and partly the gift of Tsar Alexander I. Frances Anne was one of the most celebrated society hostesses of her day. Following the death of her husband, Charles William Vane, 3rd Marquess of Londonderry, she took control of their coalmining interests and established herself as formidable business woman.
Bibliographic References
  • Letters from Benjamin Disraeli to Frances Anne, marchioness of Londonderry, 1837–1861, ed. Edith, marchioness of Londonderry (1938).
  • Edith, Marchioness of Londonderry, Frances Anne: the Life and Times of Frances Anne, Marchioness of Londonderry. London, 1958.
  • Scarisbrick, Diana. Ancestral Jewels. London, 1989
  • K. D. Reynolds, ‘Vane, Frances Anne, marchioness of Londonderry (1800–1865)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/41159, accessed 25 Sept 2015]
Collection
Accession Number
LOAN:PDP ANON.1-2014

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record createdJune 19, 2014
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