Exhibit Information

Grolier Club

Address 47 East 60th Street
New York, NY 10022

Click here for quick directions
Phone Number 212-838-6690

Website http://www.grolierclub.org

THE ENCHANTRESS: Emma, Lady Hamilton

Opening: 16 February 2011 - Closing: 30 April 2011

THE ENCHANTRESS: Emma, Lady Hamilton

 

In the late 18th century, it was a treat at elite social-occasions to view the "Attitudes” of Emma, Lady Hamilton. Emma—born Amy Lyon—would strike Classic-Poses, inspired by famous works of art, both Sculptures & Paintings.

 

Remaking herself in her teens, she became Emma Hart, but by the time she was 26, she had become Emma, Lady Hamilton, married to Sir William Hamilton, the 61-year-old British-Envoy to the Court of the Kingdom of the Two-Sicilies, based in Naples.

 

Sir William was a well-informed Collector of Antiquities, at a time when Archeological-Digs were still somewhat unregulated. His Collections also inspired Emma.

 

But she, in her turn, also inspired the major-painters of her day, especially George Romney, whose obsession with her led him to create at least 60 Portraits & Historic-Allegories evoked by Emma’s image.

 

Emma was a Seductress even in her teens, but she is most scandalously remembered for her Liaison with Admiral Horatio Nelson—Britain’s greatest Naval-Hero—while she was still married to Sir William.

 

Among many exceptional items in the Grolier exhibition are portraits of Emma by George Romney & Sir Thomas Lawrence. As well as the earliest-known-letter from Lord Nelson to Emma, 13 June 1798, written aboard the HMS-Vanguard, just before the decisive Battle of the Nile, when the English destroyed the French Fleet.

 

Emma & Lord Nelson made an agreement to destroy each other’s Letters. Nelson did so; Emma did not.

 

But she didn’t use them for Blackmail, as General Wellington’s Mistress threatened to do. If Wellington didn’t pay her for the racy letters, she said, she would publish them. Wellington—the Hero of Waterloo—responded: "Publish & Be Damned!”

 

Emma’s Life & Loves became so famous/notorious that she inspired a Major-Motion-Picture: Alex Korda’s That Hamilton Woman, starring Vivien Leigh & Laurence Olivier!

 

There was also a TV-Special, Terence Rattigan’s A Bequest to the Nation. Nelson left Emma as "a Bequest to the Nation,” pleading that the Government not let her starve.

 

The current exhibition features the Jean Kislak Collection of Manuscripts, Books & Art related to Lady Hamilton & her Era.

 

Loved, Celebrated & ultimately Abandoned, Emma Hamilton was one of the most Colorful-Characters in English-History.

 

Emma refused to accept the Norms of her Society. Instead, she used her beauty & charisma to cross the boundaries of Class, Sex, Geography, & Wealth. Her Sphere-of-Influence spanned Theater, Art & Music—as well as International-Society & Diplomacy.

 

A Collector & Connoisseur, Jean Kislak has studied Emma’s History for more than 25 years, assembling a collection that reveals the scope & depth of Emma’s colorful life.

 

In addition to Original-Letters spanning the period from 1765 to 1807, the Collection also includes a diversity of Art & Objects: among them a Portfolio of Prints of Emma in Theatrical-Poses, her Celebrated Attitudes!

 

There’s also sheet-music signed by Emma, an 1805 Commemorative silver-pill-box, with Nelson’s Portrait-in-Cameo, a collection of Emma’s Financial-Papers, & an Account-Book, in which the youthful Emma Hart documented her spending on everyday-items such as Sugar, Coffee, & Thread.

 

The Grolier Club exhibition will also include one of the larger & more personal objects in the Kislak Collection: the Wooden-Cradle that held baby Horatia, the illegitimate-daughter born to Emma & Nelson in 1801.

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