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231

George Romney

Portrait of Grace Estwick Bridgeman-Simpson (1774-1839), three-quarter length

Property of a Midwest Collection

George Romney

George Romney

Portrait of Grace Estwick Bridgeman-Simpson (1774-1839), three-quarter length

Portrait of Grace Estwick Bridgeman-Simpson (1774-1839), three-quarter length

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Property of a Midwest Collection

George Romney

Dalton-in-Furness, Lancashire 1734 - 1802 Kendal, Cumbria

Portrait of Grace Estwick Bridgeman-Simpson (1774-1839), three-quarter length


inscribed: Grace Wife / of John Brideman [sic] Simpson / died 1839

oil on canvas

canvas: 36½ by 47¼ in.; 92.7 by 120.0 cm.

framed: 46⅜ by 56½ in.; 117.8 by 143.5 cm.

For further information on the condition of this lot please contact Neely.Metz@sothebys.com
The sitter, London and Babworth Hall, Nottinghamshire;
Thence by descent to her great-nephew, Brigadier General Henry Denison (1847-1938), Babworth Hall, Nottinghamshire, by 1900;
Private collection, Michigan, since the 1970s.
Exhibition of a Special Selection from the Works of George Romney, Including a Few Portraits of Emma, Lady Hamilton, By Other Artists, London 1900, p. 25, cat. no. 68;
"A Beauty from Romney's Easel," in The Sphere (29 September 1900), p. 389;
T.H. Ward, Romney, A Biographical and Critical Essay, With a Catalogue Raisonné of His Works, London 1904, vol. 1, pp. 129-131, vol. 2, p. 143;
A. Kidson, George Romney, A Complete Catalogue of His Paintings, New Haven and London 2015, vol. 2, p. 533, cat. no. 1190, vol. 3, p. 885.
London, Grafton Galleries, Exhibition of a Special Selection from the Works of George Romney, Including a Few Portraits of Emma, Lady Hamilton, By Other Artists, 1900, no. 68 (lent by Henry Denison).

This recently rediscovered late work by the celebrated eighteenth-century society portraitist George Romney depicts Grace Estwick Bridgeman-Simpson. Wearing a cream-colored dress with an empire waist and a muslin veil, she stands before a fluted column, an element emblematic of the era’s neoclassical taste. Her fashionable attire, frontal pose, and the composition’s restrained color palette are all characteristic of Romney’s portraits.


Grace Bridgeman-Simpson was born in Barbados, where her father, Samuel Estwick (1736-1795), served as a colonial agent from 1778 until 1792. A prosperous planter, political pamphleteer, and Member of Parliament, he was a staunch supporter of the institution of slavery, and in 1793 successfully blocked William Wilberforce’s bill advocating for immediate abolition of the slave trade.


Two years before sitting for Romney, Grace had married the widower John Bridgeman-Simpson (1763-1850). Keenly interested in agriculture, Bridgeman-Simpson commissioned the acclaimed landscape designer Humphry Repton to redesign the parks of his country manor, Babworth Hall. The painting remained there, hanging in the dining room alongside other family portraits, until the early twentieth century.


Bridgeman-Simpson sat for Romney on eight occasions between late January and early November 1795. By the following year, Romney’s failing health curtailed his painting activity and so like many works from this period, the portrait seems to have been finished by another artist, whose interventions are most evident in the background foliage and Bridgeman-Simpson’s left hand that thumbs her gown.1


Even though Romney's associate William Saunders framed the work in December 1796—when still in its original full-length format—the painting remained unclaimed by the Bridgeman-Simpsons until January 1803. The Bridgeman-Simpsons paid only £100 for the work (rather than the previously agreed upon 130 guineas), suggesting that it may have been cut down in the early nineteenth century at their request.2


1 A. Kidson, George Romney, A Complete Catalogue of His Paintings, New Haven and London 2015, vol. 2, p. 533, cat. no. 1190.

2 Though T.H. Ward described the work as “Full-length,” the dimensions he included are nearly identical to the present size, suggesting it had already been cut down by 1904. T.H. Ward, Romney, A Biographical and Critical Essay, With a Catalogue Raisonné of His Works, London 1904, vol. 2, p. 143.