Elizabeth Throckmorton

Elizabeth Throckmorton, Canoness of the Order of the Dames Augustines Anglaises, 1729. Oil on canvas, 82 x 66 cm. National Gallery of Art, Washington DC.

I first came across this image on a YouTube video featuring Vivaldi’s Filiae maestae Jerusalem. As magnificent as the music was, I found I was distracted by the face of this woman, peering out of the past directly into my heart. There is a quiet strength here, as well as a hint of resignation. I couldn’t forget the image, so I did some research. Few details about her life seem to be available, but as you can see from her visibility on the web, I am not the only one to find her portrait fascinating.

The Web Gallery of Art describes her as,
Pale-complexioned, pensive, and felt as distanced from the world, she is also very much a living presence, with liquid eyes and scarlet mouth, the colour of which is almost startlingly vivid amid the austere white fabrics that enfold her.

Pensive indeed, but perhaps rather as one world-wise and resigned to her fate, whether that be for the patience required to sit for the portrait, or for her life as a Canoness of the Order of the Dames Augustines Anglaises. The artist, Nicolas de Largilliere, has captured her vitality with real sensitivity, revealing her inner grace and strength.

Who is she? Was her life in a convent a personal decision? If you know of anything else to be learned about her, please let me know in the comments below.

(A brief history of the Catholic Throckmorton family in Protestant England can be found in this pdf by Suzanne Lago Arthur. A biography of Nicolas de Largilliere, can be found at the National Gallery of Art, Washington.)

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