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Mrs. Mary Nesbitt, (born 1742/3 - died 1825) after Sir Joshua Reynolds


Enamel, signed on the reverse and dated 1783 in gold frame with blue glass reverse, in fitted leather case

Mary was an English upper class socialite and courtesan who mixed in the elevated circles of government and royalty in late 18th century Great Britain. Her home, Norwood House, in Upper Norwood, then Surrey, now South London, became a meeting place for the rich and powerful

Her society career began as an artist's model for Sir Joshua Reynolds in 1764. Through this connection she began her career as a courtesan. Simon Luttrell, nicknamed the King of Hell and later first earl of Carhampton, was possibly her original seducer. Through Luttrell she was introduced to Alexander Nesbitt (bap 1730 - d 1772), the youngest of three sons of Thomas Nesbitt, a merchant banker in the City of London. She married Nesbitt, on 25 February 1768.

Around 1771 Mary became the mistress of the Hon. Augustus John Hervey (1724-1779), a naval officer, and second son of Lord Hervey of Ickworth (1696-1743). Hervey became third earl of Bristol in 1775, and Mary and Augustus lived together, apparently faithfully, at Norwood House.

During the French Revolution she travelled in diplomatic circles on the continent. This may indicate that she had been recruited by prime minister William Pitt as a government agent in his covert attempts to restore the French monarchy. She now attracted public praise. On 25 September 1797, the Morning Chronicle acknowledged that 'this celebrated woman', despite 'the miscellany of her life', had 'acquired an elevation ... which she has preserved with dignity', using 'her influence with the great in favour of the unfortunate'

Hurter was a miniature painter and enamelist. He was in Bern 1768-70 then in Paris before moving to London for 5 years in 1777 where he copied the work of Reynolds. The original painting of which this enamel is a copy was painted by Reynolds in 1781 and hangs in the Wallace Collection.
More Information
Literature                 1.Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
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