Maria Cosway

Maria Cosway

(1760 – 1838)


Maria Hadfield Cosway was born in Italy to English parents in 1760. Moving to England after the death of her father, she married the celebrated miniature-painter and art connoisseur Richard Cosway in 1781.


Maria Cosway was an accomplished composer, musician, and society hostess and became known as “The Goddess of Pall Mall”. She is also notable for sharing a short romantic relationship with the American statesman Thomas Jefferson in 1786 while he served in Paris as the American envoy to France.


More than 30 of her works were displayed at the Royal Academy of Art from 1781 until 1801. She soon enhanced her reputation as an artist, especially when her portrait of the Duchess of Devonshire in the character of Cynthia was exhibited.


Cosway's engravings from the Old Masters of the Louvre are held in the collection of the British Museum. Two of her paintings that relate to a poem by Mary Robinson were acquired by the New York Public Library. They were included in the exhibit Gothic Nightmares: Fuseli, Blake and the Romantic Imagination at the Tate Britain museum in London in 2006.


From 1995 to 1996, the National Portrait Gallery in London held an exhibition entitled Richard and Maria Cosway: Regency Artists of Taste and Fashion, displaying 250 of their works.


Lord Melbourne (William Lamb) (15 March 1779 – 24 November 1848) was a British Whig statesman who served as Home Secretary (1830–1834) and Prime Minister (1834 and 1835–1841). He is best known for his intense and successful mentoring of a young Queen Victoria in the ways of politics.


This painting is illustrated in “Melbourne: A Biography” by Philip Ziegler.