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Maria Coventry, Countess of Coventry (née Gunning ; 1733 - 30 September 1760)


Artist: Samuel Collins

Signed S.C. 1760

Maria was a famous Irish beauty and London society hostess during the reign of King George II. She died at a young age from lead and mercury poisoning, killed by the toxins used in her beauty regimen. She was born in Hemingford Grey, Huntingdonshire and was the eldest child of John Gunning of Castle Coote, County Roscommon and his wife Hon. Bridget Bourke, daughter of Theobald Bourke, 6th Viscount Mayo.
In late 1740 or early 1741, the Gunning family returned to John Gunning's ancestral home in Ireland, where they divided their time between their home in Roscommon, and a rented house in Dublin. In March 1752, Maria married the 6th Earl of Coventry and became the Countess of Coventry. Maria's popularity and beauty was such, that on her return to London, she was mobbed when she appeared in Hyde Park and was eventually given a guard by the King, led by the Earl of Pembroke. Her husband became involved with then famous courtesan Kitty Fisher, which caused Maria much distress.

Collins was originally educated as an attorney, but quit this profession and became a miniature-painter. He settled at Bath, where he soon obtained a very large practice, and gained the reputation of one of the most perfect miniature-painters in this country. He had numerous pupils, among whom was Ozias Humphry, to whom he eventually relinquished his practice at Bath. He then removed to Dublin and enjoyed a high reputation there, from where this portrait was taken.
More Information
Condition                 Chip to glass and small chip to enamel at sitter's elbow and at two o'clock
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