Hanes & Ruskin
Miniature Portrait of Sarah Siddons

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Paintings<br>Archives<br>Miniature Portrait of Sarah Siddons
Inscribed on the back, this is a miniature portrait of the most famous actress of her time. Below is an article I wrote about her last year when I owned a plaque with her profile.
Acting in England during the second half of the 18th century was a respectable profession. The idea that you may have about “show girls” having questionable reputations may have been true for some, but there were others who took the profession seriously and even added to the technique and artistry of the era. One such actress was Sarah Siddons. “That name sounds familiar,” you may think. Well, if you are a movie buff, you will remember the Sarah Siddons Award that was a major factor in the 1951 black and white film All About Eve. (You might remember the movie even more for Bette Davis’ famous “Fasten your seatbelts” line.) At any rate, the award was not real–it was invented for the movie; no such award existed. The physical award presented in the movie depicted a woman in 18th century dress seated in a fancy chair. Turns out that this model was based on a famous painting of Sarah Siddons by Sir Joshua Reynolds. And in 1952, a group of theater lovers in Chicago created a real award, modeled after the one in the movie, and presents it each year to an outstanding actor who has performed in Chicago that year.

So who is Sarah Siddons? She was born Sarah Kemble in Wales in 1755 to a family of theater people. Her parents did not encourage her to go on the stage, but she had her own ideas. She married William Siddons at age 18, and the marriage lasted 30 years; they separated in 1804. (I am going to have to do some research on that—wondering what could have gone wrong after all that time!) Sarah’s first London appearance was at Drury Lane, aft but she was not well-received and theater impressario David Garrick banished her from the London theater scene.

After that, she played the provincial houses for six years, mostly in York and Bath. Her reputation improved to the point that Garrick invited her back to Drury Lane six years later, where she became an instant success playing in The Fatal Marriage, a play that was adapted by Garrick. I won’t go into great detail about her successes, as her story is easily found on the internet.

Quoting from Wikipedia:

…her iconography and the fashioning of her celebrity differed greatly in comparison to her female counterparts. Siddons, according to Laura Engel, invented a new category of femininity for actresses: the “Female Star”. By “cleverly blurring the distinction between the characters she played on stage with representations of herself offstage (as much portraiture of the period invokes)” Siddons was able to present a duality to her admirers. At once she would project both the “divine and the ordinary, domestic and authoritative, fantastic and real”.[

In combining her maternal persona with depictions of “British femininity”, Siddons escaped the scathing criticisms and scandal with which other actresses of her time were plagued.
$550.00   sold  
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Paintings<br>Archives<br>Miniature Portrait of Sarah Siddons
Paintings<br>Archives<br>Miniature Portrait of Sarah Siddons

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