Henrietta Howard was the mistress of the Prince of Wales (later George II) and builder of Marble Hill House, Twickenham.

This portrait, commissioned by Alexander Pope, dates from about 1724 when the building of Marble Hill House began. The landscape background is an imaginary, generalised prospect of the Thames, with villa-like buildings. Celebrated for her long chestnut tresses, Mrs Howard is portrayed in an informal pose and attire, and an interest in the sitter's intellect is apparent. Her pose echoes the seventeenth-century convention of a solitary man of letters brooding on a rocky hillside at sunset, a pose in which Pope had himself been painted. This ideal image presents Pope's idea of perfection in woman.


Alexander Pope; Mrs Martha Blount, sale 1760; Henrietta Howard; given to Horace Walpole, by 1784; Strawberry Hill Sale, 18/5/1842; Earl of Buckinghamshire, thence by descent; on loan to National Portrait Gallery 1953-86; on loan to Marble Hill from 1986.

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