An elegant portrait of a Kings Weston lady
KWAG usually scans archives, libraries, auctions, and private collections in search of new pieces of the Kings Weston history jigsaw, but we recently came across something that had evaded our radar last year. Kings Weston house is already home to a majestic full-length portrait of Lady Elizabeth Cromwell, who married Edward Southwell in 1703. Edward, or Neddy, went on to rebuilt the mansion later that century, but his wife was at least his equal. Around the time of their marriage Lady Elizabeth – Betty to her friends and family – became the muse of Godfrey Kneller, one of the foremost portraitists of his age. Kneller made more paintings of Lady Elizabeth than any other sitter, about ten more-or less.
Reputedly he was obsessed by her and resented her marriage to Southwell, but continued to paint her subsequent to that union. In July 2022 a significant painting we’ve been unaware of went under the hammer at Sotheby’s. It depicted Lady Elizabeth in a fashionable pose, as shepherdess seated in a landscape, holding a floral garland, a lamb by her side. We’ve not yet worked to establish whether it was one of those that hung at Kings Weston, the Southwell’s London house, or elsewhere. With an estimate of £20,000-£18,000 it’s perhaps best we missed the sale!