Andrea Casali's Portrait of Mrs Smart Lethieullier
Individuality, Self-Fashioning, and the Female Grand Tour Portrait

Murray Tremellen[1]

During the eighteenth century, the Grand Tour of Europe became established as a rite of passage for the British aristocracy, particularly for young, male members of the social elite.[2] In parallel with the tradition of the Grand Tour itself, there emerged a convention of Tourists sitting for a portrait whilst on their travels, a practice which reached its peak the mid-1740s to the late 1780s. Since Rome was the most important destination on the tour, it is no surprise that the two most important practitioners of the genre were based there. Pompeo Batoni (1708-1787) made a speciality of painting British sitters from about 1744 until his death, and his principal rival for the Tourist market, Anton Raphael Mengs (1728-1779), was active in Rome from 1752 until 1761.[3]

Much has been written about the Grand Tour itself, but there has been relatively little discussion of the reasons why patrons commissioned these portraits.[4] It would seem reasonable to assume that they functioned as a souvenir of the trip, a commemoration of a rite of passage, and – in an age before ‘selfies’ – as tangible ‘proof’ of the sitter’s travels. More than anything else, however, the existing literature on Grand Tour portraits emphasises their importance as an affirmation of the sitter’s social status. They form – to use Stephen Greenblatt’s famous phrase – part of a process of self-fashioning, through which their sitters project an image of themselves as wealthy, travelled, and cultured.[5] These traits were important to the sitters as they were seen as essential attributes for membership of the gentry or aristocracy.[6]

This objective undoubtedly influenced the composition of these pictures, which tend to be associated with elaborate costumes and ostentatious display. Indeed, when Andrew Wilton introduced the concept of the ‘Swagger Portrait’ for the Tate Gallery’s eponymous 1992 exhibition, he identified Batoni as a key contributor to the genre.[7] Shearer West has also highlighted the importance of external signifiers of wealth and status within Grand Tour portraiture, arguing that these tend to overshadow any depiction of the sitter’s character or personality.[8] Sabrina Eliasson adds that there is a high degree of visual uniformity among Tour portraits, and asserts that this is “a positive characteristic. Visual uniformity reinforced the social aims and ambitions of a social class who expected a particular result from the tour.”[9]

Figure 1. Andrea Casali, Portrait of Sir Charles Frederick, c. 1737-1738, oil on canvas, 133 x 96 cm, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. © Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford.
Figure 2. Andrea Casali, Portrait of Mrs. Smart Lethieullier, c. 1738, oil on canvas, 137.6 x 98.2 cm, London Borough of Newham, Heritage Service, London (not on public display). © Newham Archives and Local Studies Library.

Yet whilst there are clearly commonalities which unite Grand Tour portraits into a recognisable genre, the emphasis on ‘uniformity’ can perhaps be overdrawn. Steffi Roettgen argues that some Grand Tourists – particularly the more discerning and intellectual ones – actually wanted to avoid “stereotypical portraits”. Instead, they sought more thoughtful images which could portray “a credible relationship between the individual expression and the social role of the sitter”.[10] Roettgen uses this claim as a means to differentiate the work of Batoni and Mengs: she argues that Batoni was happy to emphasise his sitter’s wealth and status, whereas Mengs was more interested in capturing personality and individuality.

There, is, however, another Grand Tour portraitist whose contribution to the genre has received less attention: Andrea Casali (1705-1784), who was active in Rome during the 1730s. It is not known exactly how many Grand Tourists he painted there before moving to England in 1741, but only two portraits are known have survived.[11] One of these, his Portrait of Sir Charles Frederick (Fig. 1, c. 1737–1738), can be viewed at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. The other, his Portrait of Mrs Smart Lethieullier (Fig. 2, c. 1738), has not been seen in public for more than twenty-five years.[12] This is unfortunate, because Mrs Lethieullier’s portrait is unusual not only because of its author and relatively early date, but, perhaps more importantly, because it depicts a woman. Indeed, it is the earliest known Grand Tour portrait of a woman.[13] A considerable number of women made the Tour, but – since the great majority of surviving Tour portraits depict male sitters – the distinctive qualities of female Tour portraits have received less attention from scholars.[14] Moreover, the composition contains two distinctive features: the sitter’s grand, ermine-lined cloak, and the globe under her hand, which are highly unusual within Grand Tour portraiture, and possibly unique for a female sitter. Can these features be reconciled to the existing narrative of Tour portraits, or do they present a more fundamental challenge to our current understanding of the genre?

To attempt to make sense of the portrait, this essay will first study Mrs Lethieullier’s life, assess her character and personality (so far as is possible) and identify her social position. Then, I shall analyse the iconography of the portrait and consider the extent to which it can be reconciled with other, later Grand Tour portraits, particularly those of women. There can be little doubt that this portrait was intended to help the sitter fashion her social identity, and it certainly uses recognisable signifiers. However, it is by no means formulaic: the portrait is as individual as its sitter, and it uses familiar devices in unexpected ways. Moreover, I shall argue that this picture suggests the influence of two factors which have been rarely, if ever, considered in relation to Tour portraiture: theatricality and the traditions of state portraiture. A study of Mrs Lethieullier’s portrait may assist us in moving towards a more detailed and nuanced understanding of the Grand Tour portrait genre.


Mrs Lethieullier was born c. 1707 as Margaret Sloper, the daughter of William Sloper Snr. of West Woodhay, Berkshire. Sloper was a ‘self-made man’ and an influential Whig MP; his estates covered thousands of acres in Berkshire, Hampshire and Wiltshire.[15] Margaret’s future husband, Smart Lethieullier, was descended from Huguenot refugees; his father, John, was a successful merchant who had elevated his family to the landed gentry by purchasing Alderbrook Manor, Essex, in 1694.[16] Smart and Margaret married in 1725.[17] Smart had his portrait painted by George Knapton at about this time, but there is currently no evidence of any contemporary portrait of Margaret.[18] This is surprising because, in this era, marriage was the life event most likely to prompt a wealthy eighteenth-century woman to sit for a portrait.[19] If Margaret was still lacking a good portrait of herself by the late 1730s, then she may have viewed her Tour as the perfect excuse to sit for one.

Sadly, we have no surviving letters or diaries from Margaret herself that might give insights into her character or mindset. Smart’s surviving correspondence often refers to her, but usually only in passing. Nevertheless, his letters convey a sense that Smart and Margaret were a genuinely close couple who prized family relationships above social conventions. This is particularly demonstrated by their relations with Margaret’s brother, William Sloper Jnr., and his mistress, the actress Susannah Cibber. Whilst Smart and Margaret were in Italy, William had separated from his wife and allowed Susannah – who was also married – to move in with him at West Woodhay. Even by the lax moral standards of the eighteenth century, this was considered scandalous and Susannah found herself almost completely ostracised by “respectable women”.[20] Smart and Margaret, however, welcomed Susannah into the family and continued to visit West Woodhay. Indeed, they even helped to nurse the couple’s illegitimate daughter back to health after she caught smallpox.[21]

Margaret’s close relationship with her husband did not prevent her from pursuing independent hobbies. Smart’s letters to Charles Lyttelton, for example, attest to Margaret’s interests in gardening and music.[22] On the other hand, Smart’s principal interest was antiquarianism; indeed, he was a Fellow of both the Royal Society and the Society of Antiquaries.[23] There is no evidence that Margaret took anything more than a polite interest in this field. In one of his letters to Lyttelton, Smart recalls leaving his friend to dine with Margaret at a local inn whilst he went off in pursuit of Roman remains.[24]

However, Margaret’s most important interest – at least in connection with her portrait – was amateur dramatics. She seems to have had a serious and sustained enthusiasm for theatrical performance, and it was already apparent during her Grand Tour: Lady Mary Wortley Montagu referred to her giving “comedies” in Venice.[25] On her return home, Margaret’s close friendship with Susannah Cibber provided further opportunities to indulge this interest. In the 1740s, David Garrick visited Susannah at West Woodhay, and Margaret joined them in performing music and theatricals for the rest of the family.[26] Margaret’s love of music also provided opportunities for performance. In 1752, when Smart was ill and the couple were staying in Bath, Margaret organised musical evenings for his entertainment.[27]

Altogether this evidence may suggest that Margaret was a woman with a sense of fun, who loved performance and was perhaps not unduly concerned about social conventions. Nevertheless, in the clearly-defined class structure of eighteenth-century England, the Lethieulliers would have been conscious of their position within the social hierarchy.[28] Indeed, this consciousness must have provided at least part of the motivation for their Grand Tour. Smart’s father had already given him a settlement of lands upon his marriage in 1725, thus confirming his status as a gentleman. However, it was not until 1737, when John Lethieullier died and Smart inherited the family estate at Aldersbrook, that Smart and Margaret set out on their Grand Tour.[29] Admittedly, it may be that it was only after Smart’s inheritance that they had the wherewithal to make the trip. Nevertheless, the fact that Smart and Margaret set out so soon after John’s death suggests that they viewed the tour as an essential rite of passage that their newfound status demanded of them. They are known to have arrived in Rome by December 1737 and stayed there until at least August 1738 before moving on to Venice; they may also have spent time in Florence and Lombardy along the way. They had left Venice by September 1739.[30]

Thus, in terms of their social identity and self-fashioning, the couple had an obvious motive for commissioning Grand Tour portraits. The pictures would have commemorated not only a memorable trip, but also Smart’s inheritance and the confirmation of his status as a member of the landed gentry. We do not know exactly how Margaret’s portrait came to be commissioned; at present, relatively little information is available about Casali’s practice in Rome. However, Sir Charles Frederick, who was also painted by Casali in 1737-1738, was another well-known antiquary, and a friend of Smart’s thereby, so as Francis Russell has pointed out, their commissions were almost certainly connected.[31]

In addition, the Heinz archive contains a photograph of a portrait captioned “a member of the Sloper family” (Fig. 3, c. 1738). The whereabouts of the original version are unknown, but it was apparently sold at auction, along with Margaret’s portrait, in 1937.[32] The identification of the sitter as a member of the Sloper family seems unlikely. Margaret’s only close male relative who would have been the right age at that time would be her brother William, who is known to have been in England during 1737-1738.[33] It would appear far more likely that this is a picture of Smart Lethieullier, and was painted as a pendant for Margaret’s portrait. The compositions of the two pictures are obviously complementary, with the two figures nearly mirroring each other, and the man’s facial features seem a good match for those in Knapton’s portrait of Smart. Of course, this identification is only speculative, but it strongly suggests that Margaret’s portrait should be viewed not merely as an individual commission, but as one half of a joint commission. As we shall see, paired portraits of couples are unusual, but certainly not unique within Grand Tour portraiture. While this article focuses primarily on Margaret’s portrait, this possible pendant portrait must be kept in mind.

Figure 3. Andrea Casali, A Member of the Sloper Family [sic], c. 1738, current location unknown. © National Portrait Gallery, London.
Figure 4. Pompeo Batoni, Georgiana Poyntz, Countess Spencer (1738-1814), 1764, oil on canvas, 137.2 x 123.2 cm, Althorp House, Northampton. © Collection at Althorp.


What, then, are some visual elements of Casali’s compositions? Aside from the sitters themselves, the most important features are the backdrops. Both Margaret and the unidentified male sitter are positioned in front of classical columns which frame an open window. This feature was by no means unique to Grand Tour portraits: it had been a common compositional device in British portraits, of both men and women, since the Stuart era. They were particularly appropriate in this context, however, because they were used to frame backdrops containing identifiable Roman landmarks. The use of these backdrops in Grand Tour portraiture was a common device to signal a sitter’s travel and classical knowledge. Margaret Lethieullier’s portrait, however, is unusual in that it uses this device in conjunction with a female sitter. By contrast, Batoni rarely used Roman landmarks in his portraits of female sitters, although they were common in his male portraits. For example, his portrait of Lady Mary Fox, Baroness Holland (1767) simply shows the sitter standing against a curtain and a column; in this case, the fact that she is wearing a travelling costume is the only visual clue that the picture was painted abroad.[34] A notable exception to this pattern is Batoni’s portrait of Georgiana Poyntz, Countess Spencer (Fig. 4, 1764) in which the Colosseum is visible through the window. Bowron and Kerber argue that, in this case, Batoni was paying tribute to an unusually accomplished woman who took a keen interest in the history and architecture of the city.[35] By contrast, the instrument and sheet music visible on the table, though reflecting Lady Spencer’s genuine enthusiasm for music, also allowed her to highlight her talents within an approved sphere of female ‘accomplishments’. It was talents like these, rather than classical knowledge, which generally defined a woman’s social role.[36] This explanation helps to reconcile Lady Spencer’s portrait to the traditional Grand Tour portrait narrative of self-fashioning through external signifiers. However, Margaret’s backdrop appears more difficult to reconcile to this traditional narrative, especially in light of her apparent apathy to antiquities.

If the missing Casali painting is indeed a portrait of Smart, then it may be that Margaret’s backdrop was chosen to complement this. In general terms, Smart’s genuine enthusiasm for antiquarianism would have given a strong incentive to include these classical landmarks. However, the rationale for the Lethieulliers’ specific choices of buildings may run deeper than this. The male portrait appears to show the Arch of Titus, whilst in Margaret’s the Pyramid of Cestius is just visible. Roman backdrops like these are indelibly associated with Grand Tour portraits. Indeed, British Tourists had been depicted in this way at least as early as the 1720s, when Francesco Trevisani painted Sir Edward Gascoigne in front of the Colosseum.[37] As Casali was a pupil of Trevisani’s, it is possible the format was taken directly from him.[38] Unlike a modern ‘selfie’, however, these portraits had to do more than just prove that the sitter had visited a particular place. Roman landmarks signified not only travel but engagement with classical culture. In an age when ancient Greece and Rome were held up as models for contemporary society, young aristocrats and gentlemen needed to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of classical antiquity. The depiction of any well-known Roman building or sculpture could help the sitter to fulfil this general objective, but Casali seems to have gone further. It appears that he carefully chose particular landmarks to communicate specific messages about his sitters. Admittedly, these messages rely on prior knowledge of both sitter and landmark, as well as an understanding of the eighteenth-century social context; hence, they are not as obvious today as they would have been to contemporary viewers. For example, if our identification of Smart Lethieullier as the mystery male sitter is correct, why would he choose to be depicted against the Arch of Titus? His family had no military connections, so why choose a monument which commemorated a military victory? The answer may lie in the fact that the arch was built after Titus’s death: it commemorated not only his suppression of the Judean revolt, but also his posthumous deification.[39] Thus, the elevation of Titus from mortal to divine status may symbolise Smart’s own apotheosis: his elevation from a merchant’s son to a landed gentleman.

Figure 5. Pompeo Batoni, Portrait of Richard Cavendish, 1773, oil on canvas, 128 x 96.7 cm, Chatsworth, Bakewell. © The Devonshire Collection, image courtesy of Chatsworth Settlement Trustees.

Margaret, meanwhile, is depicted with the Pyramid of Cestius, the tomb of the Roman General and Senator Gaius Cestius Gallus. Again, it is not immediately obvious how this obscure historical figure might reflect Margaret’s interests or social aspirations. However, the inscription on the tomb tells us that Gallus served as Tribune of the Plebs: this means that he was elected by the working-class people of Rome to protect their interests in the Senate.[40] This may be an analogy for Margaret’s father, the self-made man who became a member of the House of Commons. Thus, it seems plausible to suggest that these landmarks were carefully chosen to advance specific messages about the sitter’s place in society, though admittedly this explanation assumes that the sitters made the choice of landmarks for themselves. It is possible that Casali may have taken the initiative in proposing these features, but a more detailed study of the artist and his practice in Rome would be needed in order to suggest his possible motives with any confidence.

Other elements of Margaret’s portrait, however, are harder to explain in these terms. The globe on the table, for example, is highly unusual within Grand Tour portraiture. Admittedly, Batoni’s 1782 portrait of Thomas Tayleur, 1st Marquess of Headfort, also contains a freestanding globe. However, in that case it is positioned on a desk between the sitter and the window, a conventional symbol of learning and travel, as would be expected for a male sitter.[41] Eliasson has noted that many of Batoni’s later portraits feature a sculpture of the goddess Roma, holding out a globe to the sitter. His Portrait of Richard Cavendish (Fig. 5, 1773) is one such example. Eliasson argues that in this case, the globe becomes a symbol of the wisdom and “civic virtue” of the Classical world. Roma – the personification of Rome – literally offers these things to the British Tourists, who are thus positioned as the natural heirs to Classical civilisation.[42] Indeed, Roma was sufficiently evocative of classical Rome that there was no need for Batoni to include any landmark buildings: the sculpture alone was sufficient to identify the picture as a Grand Tour portrait.

Nevertheless, as a signifier the Roma sculpture, and its globe, appears far more relevant to a male portrait than a female one. ‘Civic virtue’ would have been considered less important for women in the eighteenth century, due to their more limited public roles; indeed, as far as can be ascertained, all Batoni’s ‘Roma’ portraits depict male sitters.[43] Besides, Margaret’s posture – with her hand firmly placed on the globe – suggests something already possessed, rather than something offered. In this, it uncannily echoes two much more famous English portraits: the “Armada portrait” of Elizabeth I (Fig. 6, c. 1588), and van Dyck’s “Madagascar Portrait” of the Earl and Countess of Arundel (Fig. 7, c. 1639–1640). In both these pictures, the globe is an Imperialist metaphor. Elizabeth’s hand covers the Americas, signifying her possession of the English colonies there, while in van Dyck’s picture the Earl and Countess gesture towards Madagascar, where the Duke intended to lead a colonising expedition.[44] Conversely, Margaret’s had no land of her own, nor any political influence. Thus, unlike the other Tour portraits we have seen, the globe in Margaret’ picture is not an allegory for possession, whether of territory or cultural knowledge. Nevertheless, the similarities between Mrs Lethieullier’s painting and state portraits like that of the Arundels are too strong to be coincidental. Casali must have been familiar with the traditions of state portraiture and is surely echoing their imagery deliberately. As I will try to demonstrate, Margaret’s theatrical interests may provide an explanation for this.

Figure 6. English School, 16th Century, Elizabeth I, 1533-1603 (the ‘Armada Portrait’), c. 1588, oil on panel, 112.5 x 127 cm, Queen’s House, London. © National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London.
Figure 7. Anthony van Dyck, Thomas Howard Graf Arundel (1586-1646) und seine Gattin Alathea Talbot, c. 1639-1640, 124 x 202 cm, Arundel Castle, Arundel. © Arundel Castle Archives.


Mrs Lethieullier’s costume provides another striking similarity with the Arundel portrait. Whilst the colours are different, her combination of a plain silk dress and an ermine-lined robe is strikingly similar to Lady Arundel’s attire. Extravagant clothing is not, in itself, unusual within Grand Tour portraiture. During the eighteenth century, continental fashions were far more ostentatious than the prevailing British styles, and many Tourists sitters took the opportunity to be painted in clothes far more elaborate than anything they would have worn at home.[45]

Moreover, the dress may have been Casali’s choice rather than Margaret’s. Artists often favoured plain silks because they facilitated virtuoso renderings of the interplay of light and material.[46] Margaret’s robe, however, is an unusual choice for a Grand Tour portrait, and possibly unique for a female sitter.[47]

In Britain, ermine is traditionally associated with royalty or nobility; hence both the Earl and Countess of Arundel wear ermine robes in their joint portrait. It is traditional for the monarch to wear a similar robe for their coronation ceremony, and to this day they often feature in British royal portraits. The visual language of the court is underscored by Margaret’s throne-like Rococo chair and her regal, upright posture. Wilton argues that “the language of social swagger” within Grand Manner portraiture “derives from and deliberately alludes to the language of state portraits”, but such overtly royal iconography is not typical within Grand Tour portraiture.[48] Moreover, whilst Grand Tour portrait costumes were often extravagant, they usually combined their fashionable style with an air of ease and comfort. All the male sitters considered in this essay – Frederick, Cavendish, and Casali’s mystery gentleman – opted to wear their flamboyant waistcoats in a dishabille manner. Even Lady Spencer’s elegant apricot gown was far more plausible as an everyday costume than Margaret’s cumbersome robe, which would have been totally impractical almost anywhere outside the artist’s studio.

However, whilst ‘swagger’ costumes like those of Frederick or Cavendish were the most popular choice for Grand Tour portraits, there was also a significant group of sitters who opted for ‘fancy dress’ costumes of one form or another. We know, for example, that some of Batoni’s sitters were portrayed in “Vandyke” dress; one (sadly untraced) portrait apparently depicted its sitter in “Roman habit”.[49] However, perhaps the most interesting comparisons with Mrs Lethieullier’s painting are Batoni 1751 portraits of the Fetherstonhaugh family, which form a particularly distinctive set within his oeuvre. Coincidentally Sarah, Lady Fetherstonhaugh (née Lethieullier) was a second cousin of Smart’s, and in fact the Fetherstonhaughs made their Grand Tour in very similar circumstances to Smart and Margaret, albeit a decade later.[50] The Fetherstonhaugh fortune had been made through trade, and Sir Matthew, like Smart, waited until he had received his inheritance and acquired his own country estate before embarking on a Grand Tour.[51] Nevertheless, the Fetherstonhaugh portraits are very different to Casali’s work. Unusually, Sir Matthew and Sarah each sat twice to Batoni; the themes of the four portraits, whilst different, are related.[52] In all four pictures, the sitters are depicted in rural landscapes, with no specific classical monuments visible; only the distant mountains hint at an Italian setting. Eliasson posits that, rather than using Roman landmarks to commemorate their apotheosis, Batoni’s portraits celebrate the Fetherstonhaughs’ new status by portraying the hunting and country pursuits they will enjoy on their new estate when they return home.[53] This explains why one set of portraits features pastoral accessories such as fruit and wreaths of corn, while the other depicts the sitters in hunting costumes. Indeed, in one of her portraits, Lady Fetherstonhaugh is depicted as Diana, the Roman goddess of hunting (Fig. 8, 1751). This kind of allegorical depiction is unusual within Grand Tour portraiture, but it fits in to a wider, and long-established, tradition within female portraiture in which allegorical personae were used to emphasise specific virtues of the sitter.[54] This ultimately reflects the fact that women had more limited public roles than men at this time; hence, whilst a man’s portrait would emphasise his public role, women’s portraits could only emphasise private virtues, and allegorical depictions helped to do this.[55] Consequently, Lady Sarah appears in character as Diana (signified by the crescent moon on her head), whilst Sir Matthew – though wearing a fanciful hunting costume – is portrayed as himself.[56]

Margaret’s portrait appears to subvert this allegorical tradition. Her ermine cloak certainly seems to be some kind of ‘fancy dress’ costume chosen specifically for the portrait. However, rather than portraying herself as a heroine from classical mythology, Margaret has cast herself as a monarch or aristocrat, her costume and accessories deliberately echoing the imagery of state pictures such as the Arundel portrait. She thus portrays herself in a public role which she does not play in real life. Whereas the Fetherstonhaugh portraits serve as an allegory for the actual social roles the couple will fulfil upon their return home – namely country squires and sportsmen – Margaret pretends to a much higher social rank than she can realistically expect to attain.

Margaret’s portrait then, appears not to be an allegory; yet it is hard to see how she might exploit the symbolism of state portraiture for any other purpose. As Shawe-Taylor puts it, long robes in portraiture connote “rank, power and dynasty”.[57] Smart and Margaret, however, had no real power, and only minor rank; nor did they ever establish their own dynasty, for their marriage remained childless. One might suggest that the portrait was conceived purely as an act of arrogant snobbery, an attempt by Mrs Lethieullier to align herself with her social betters. However, such behaviour seems out-of-keeping with what little we know of Margaret’s character: she appears to have been relaxed and unpretentious, unafraid to play a comic role on stage or to socialise with the ostracised actress Susannah Cibber.

It may, as mentioned, be Margaret’s interest in theatre which provides the solution to this conundrum. Wilton has argued that theatricality was a definite influence on some early Grand Manner portraits, and has even shown instances of women using a portrait to commemorate a specific performance in a play or masque.[58] It is not impossible, then, that Margaret chose her costume to reflect a theatrical role which she played during her time in Italy. This would certainly help to explain the difference in dress and demeanour between Margaret’s portrait and Smart’s (assuming that our identification of the mystery sitter is correct). We have no evidence that Smart himself acted; instead, his portrait emphasises his scholarly talents and antiquarian interests, by means of the open folio on his knee. He lounges in the chair, relaxed and dishabille, to demonstrate his ease and confidence within the Roman environment.

Figure 8. Pompeo Batoni, Sarah Lethieullier, Lady Fetherstonhaugh (1722-1788), as Diana, 1751, oil on canvas, 96.5 x 72.4 cm, The National Trust, Uppark House and Garden, Petersfield. © National Trust Images.
Figure 9. Thomas Hudson, Susannah Maria Cibber (née Arne), c. 1749, oil on canvas, 76.2 x 62.9 cm, National Portrait Gallery, London. © National Portrait Gallery, London.

Margaret, by contrast, sits upright and regal, reflecting both her extravagant (and corseted) costume, and the character she is portraying. The depiction of Margaret in a theatrical role would also explain the portrait’s use of symbols from state portraiture, such as the cloak and globe. As we have seen, these attributes are difficult to explain in relation to the usual social expectations for a woman of Margaret’s class. Yet if they are attributes designed to establish a theatrical character then this problem is resolved, and Margaret’s portrait may be understood as a very interesting and unusual instance of a Grand Tour portrait being used to emphasise the sitter’s personal interests, rather than to self-fashion her actual class identity in accordance with social expectationsAs a final aside, it is interesting to note that Susannah Cibber, in her later portrait by Thomas Hudson, has adopted a rather similar costume to that worn by Margaret, albeit with silk drapery rather than an ermine robe (Fig. 9, c. 1749). Although there is not enough evidence to draw a definite link between the two paintings, Susannah must surely have been aware of Mrs Lethieullier’s portrait. If, indeed, there was an element of deliberate theatricality in Margaret’s picture, then this may well have appealed to the famous London actress.


There is still much work to be done to better understand the early evolution of the Grand Tour portrait, and particularly Casali’s contribution. Moreover, the biographical knowledge of Margaret Lethieullier is limited; since she did not leave behind a direct commentary on the portrait, we will never know what her intentions were. Nevertheless, her portrait serves to remind us that, whilst self-fashioning and the communication of social identity were undoubtedly important objectives of the Tour portrait, there was never a fixed ‘formula’ for such pictures. Some Grand Tour portraits are as individual as their sitters, and it seems there was plenty of scope for artists to emphasise the character and personal interests of the person depicted.

Margaret’s portrait also casts new light on the possible influences which shaped Grand Tour portraiture. The link between state portraiture and Grand Tour images is not an entirely new idea; after all, it is well-known that Batoni painted popes and European royalty as well as tourists. However, Margaret’s portrait is unusually direct in its utilisation of royal iconography. The possible influence of Margaret’s theatrical interests on her portrait is an intriguing one, and would merit further investigation. There may be scope, for example, to establish connections or parallels between Grand Tour portraits and eighteenth-century theatrical portraits. Above all, Margaret’s portrait demonstrates a clear need for a general re-assessment of female Grand Tour portraiture. Is it possible to construct a narrative which can account for female Grand Tour portraits as a distinct sub-genre, evolving separately to, but in parallel with, their male counterparts? Or are these images simply too unusual and diverse to be considered as a coherent group?

Grand Tour portraits were far more than just agglomerations of conventional symbols; behind their superficial ‘uniformity’ lies considerable nuance. Whilst there are certainly recurring motifs, different sitters could use them in different ways and for different purposes. Even between pendant portraits – perhaps including Margaret’s portrait and its missing male counterpart – there are important variations of symbolism and meaning. These partly reflect the different social expectations for male and female portraiture, but may also be a reflection of the sitters’ individual choices and interests.

Whatever Margaret Lethieullier may have intended for her portrait, it is undoubtedly a beautiful and intriguing work of art. Hopefully this article will encourage other scholars to turn their attention to a painting which has been overlooked for far too long.


  1. This article has its origins in an assignment I undertook during my MA at Birkbeck College, University of London. I gratefully acknowledge the support I received from staff there, particularly Dr Kate Retford, who gave invaluable assistance in locating source materials. I am also indebted to my former colleagues at Uppark House & Garden, particularly Sarah Foster and Jean Spooner, who facilitated access to material in the house archive; and Dr Bob France, who gave advice regarding secondary literature. The original markers of my assignment, Dr Zoë Opačić and Dr Robert Maniura, gave me extremely useful feedback, which prompted substantial revisions to my work. Finally, I wish to thank all the attendees of the University of York’s 2020 History of Art PhD conference, where I presented this research as a paper. Their questions and feedback prompted many further refinements to the final version of this article.

  2. For an overview of the Grand Tour see J. Black, The British Abroad: the Grand Tour in the Eighteenth Century (Cheltenham: The History Press, 2003); J. Black, Italy and the Grand Tour (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2003); and C. Hibbert, The Grand Tour (London: Methuen 1987). For a specific history of women on the Grand Tour see B. Dolan, Ladies of the Grand Tour (London: Harper Collins, 2001). For details of individual travellers, the definitive reference is J. Ingamells, A Dictionary of British and Irish Travellers in Italy 1701-1800 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1997).

  3. F. Russell, “Portraits on the Grand Tour: Batoni’s British Sitters – I”, Country Life 153, no. 3963 (7 June 1973): 1608; S. Roettgen, Anton Raphael Mengs 1728-1779 and his British Patrons (London: Zwemmer, 1993), 15-19.

  4. M. Rogan, “Fashion and Identity in Georgian Britain: The Grand Tour Portraits of Pompeo Batoni” (MA thesis, University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, 2015), 4.

  5. S. Greenblatt, Renaissance Self-Fashioning: From More to Shakespeare (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005).

  6. S. West, Portraiture (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), 36-37.

  7. A. Wilton, The Swagger Portrait: Grand Manner Portraiture in Britain from Van Dyck to Augustus John, 1630-1930 (London: Tate Gallery, 1992), 12-3.

  8. West, Portraiture, 29-31.

  9. S. N. Eliasson, Portraiture and Social Identity in Eighteenth-Century Rome (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2009), 13.

  10. Roettgen, Anton Raphael Mengs, 20-21.

  11. John Ingamells, “Casali, Andrea”, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2004, accessed 30/03/2020,

  12. The painting has spent most of its existence in private hands, and only briefly emerged into the limelight in 1987, when it was auctioned at Christies. It was acquired by the Passmore Edwards Museum, but that institution closed in 1994 and the painting has been in storage ever since. For the history of the painting see F. Russell, “Notes on Grand Tour Portraiture”, The Burlington Magazine, 136: 1096 (July 1994): 438-443. For the Passmore Edward Museum, see “1898 – Passmore Edwards Museum, Romford Road, Stratford, London, UK”,, accessed 30/03/2020,

  13. Russell, “Notes”, pp. 438-39

  14. J. Ingamells, Dictionary (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1997).

  15. M. Nash: The Provoked Wife (London: Hutchinson, 1977), 130.

  16. C. H. I. Chown, “The Lethieullier Family of Aldersbrook House: Part I”, Essex Review 35, 140 (Oct 1926): 208.

  17. C. H. I. Chown, “The Lethieullier Family of Aldersbrook House: Part II”, Essex Review 36, no. 141 (Jan 1927): 3.

  18. G. Knapton, Portrait of Smart Lethieullier, c. 1725. Oil on canvas, dimensions not available. Breamore House, Fordingbridge.

  19. D. Shawe-Taylor, The Georgians: Eighteenth-Century Portraiture and Society (London: Barrie & Jenkins, 1990), 99.

  20. Nash, The Provoked Wife, 271.

  21. Smart Lethieullier to Charles Lyttelton, September 29th 1749. British Library, Stowe Manuscripts 752 (hereafter cited as Stowe MS 752), ff. 31-2.

  22. Smart Lethieullier to Charles Lyttelton, September 14th 1747; October 24th 1749; and November 29th 1752. Stowe MS 752, ff. 20, 34, 78.

  23. Chown, “The Lethieullier Family: Part II”, 2-3.

  24. Smart Lethieullier to Charles Lyttelton, September 29th 1749. Stowe MS 752. 752, ff. 31-2

  25. Ingamells, Dictionary, 598.

  26. Nash, The Provoked Wife, 223.

  27. Smart Lethieullier to Charles Lyttelton, November 29th 1752. Stowe MS 752, f. 78, British Library

  28. For a full explanation of the nuances of English society at the time – and the importance in which they were held – see Porter, England in the Eighteenth Century, 50-51.

  29. Chown, “The Lethieullier Family: Part I”, 212.

  30. Ingamells, Dictionary, 598.

  31. Russell, “Notes”, 438-9.

  32. The photographs of this portrait, and Margaret’s, in the Heinz collection are both annotated “Robinson Fisher sale 22/9/37” on their reverse. To do date, I have been unable to trace the catalogue of this sale.

  33. Nash, The Provoked Wife, 105-09, 122-23.

  34. E. P. Bowron and P. B. Kerber, Pompeo Batoni: Prince of Painters in Eighteenth-Century Rome (New Haven: Yale UP, 2007), 70-1.

  35. Bowron and Kerber, Pompeo Batoni, 70-1.

  36. West, Portraiture, 148.

  37. Attributed to Francesco Trevisani, Sir Edward Gascoigne (d.1750), 6th Bt., c. 1725. Oil on canvas, 96.5 x 80 cm. Leeds: Leeds City Art Galleries, Lotherton Hall.

  38. Ingamells, “Casali, Andrea”, n. p.

  39. S. Pescarin, Rome: Archaeological Guide to the Eternal City (Vercelli: White Star Publishers, 1999), 45.

  40. E. Eidinow, S. Hornblower and A. Spawforth (Eds.), The Oxford Classical Dictionary (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2012), 302, 1505.

  41. P, Batoni, Thomas Tayleur, 1st Marquees of Headfort, 1782. Oil on canvas, 146.7 x 178.4cm. Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (

  42. Eliasson, Portraiture and Social Identity, 39-44.

  43. Shawe-Taylor, The Georgians, 99-100.

  44. L. Gent and N. Llewellyn (eds.), Renaissance Bodies: The Human Figure in English Culture c. 1540-1660 (London: Reaktion Books, 1990), 14-6; Christopher White, Anthony van Dyck: Thomas Howard, The Earl of Arundel (Los Angeles, CA: Getty Publications, 2006), 71-74.

  45. A. Ribeiro, Dress in Eighteenth Century Europe 1715-1789 (New Haven: Yale UP, 2002), pp. 21-22; Rogan, Fashion and Identity, 56-8.

  46. Ribeiro, Dress in Eighteenth Century Europe, 42.

  47. Note, however, that Batoni painted at least one British man in ermine robes: John Ker, 3rd Duke of Roxburghe. In this case the robes allude to his membership of the House of Lords. See Bowron and Kerber, Pompeo Batoni, 42.

  48. Wilton, Swagger Portrait, 19.

  49. Bowron and Kerber, Pompeo Batoni, 38.

  50. L. B. Ellis, “The Lethieullier Family”, Proceedings of the Huguenot Society of London 19, no. 2 (1952-1958), 67.

  51. Rebecca Wallis, Uppark House and Garden (National Trust, 2019), 8-11.

  52. It should be noted that these pictures form part of a larger set, with several relatives who accompanied the Fetherstonhaughs on their travels also depicted. See A. M. Clark, Pompeo Batoni: A Complete Catalogue of his Works with an Introductory Text (Oxford: Phaidon, 1985), 252-54.

  53. Eliasson, Portraiture and Social Identity, 133-4.

  54. West, Portraiture, pp. 148-53. However, a member of the Leeson family was also painted as Diana by Batoni; see Russell, “Portraits on the Grand Tour – I”, 1609.

  55. Shawe-Taylor, The Georgians, 99-100.

  56. Wilton, Swagger Portrait, 38.

  57. Shawe-Taylor, The Georgians, 156.

  58. Wilton, Swagger Portrait, 20-21, 76, 92.

Article Information
Tremellen, Murray. “Andrea Casali’s Portrait of Mrs Smart Lethieullier: Individuality, Self- Fashioning, and the Female Grand Tour Portrait.” Aspectus, no. 2 (2020): 1–18.