William Frith

Pope Makes Love To Lady Mary Wortley Montagu

Pope Makes Love To Lady Mary Wortley Montagu by William Frith

Artwork Detail

Early in his career, Frith specialised in painting episodes from the lives of famous historical personalities. Here he depicts the disastrous moment that spelled future enmity between the poet Alexander Pope and his potential patron Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. Frith explained the situation for viewers of the 1852 Royal Academy exhibition. 'Her own statement, as to the origin of the quarrel, was this: That at some ill-chosen time, when she least expected what romancers call a declaration, he made such passionate love to her, that in spite of her utmost endeavours to be angry and look grave, provoked an immediate fit of laughter: from which moment he became her implacable enemy'. The salon displays several references to Lady Mary's social position and personal background - the coronet on the wall above the sconce, the literary texts, the tulip - while the writing materials indicate her position as the wife of the first Ambassador to Turkey (from where she introduced into England inoculation against smallpox) and her fame as a correspondent and writer. Although the sculpted lovers in the background gently mock Pope's declaration, Frith has in fact treated both figures kindly; Pope's hunched back is hidden from sight because he is seated, and Lady Mary's face is shown without disfiguring smallpox scars. (from The Guide, 2001)

Pope Makes Love To Lady Mary Wortley Montagu
William Frith
Production date
oil on canvas
1180 x 942 mm
Credit line
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, gift of Sir Frank Mappin, 1974
Accession no
No known copyright restrictions
International Art
Display status
Not on display

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