A portrait miniature by Horace Hone of Sarah Siddons (1755 1825), a British actress who found fame on Drury Lane for her portrayal of Lady Macbeth and became the best known tragedienne of the 18th century, will be offered by Bonhams
in the Fine Portrait Miniature sale taking place in Knightsbridge on November 24th. The portrait is estimated to sell for £6,000 8,000.
Born in Brecon, Wales, Sarah Siddons was the eldest daughter of an actor-manager, whose travelling company included most members of his family. In 1774, Siddons' performance as Belvidera in Thomas Otway's 'Venice Preserved' brought her to the attention of David Garrick, who asked her to appear at Drury Lane. However, her first appearances were not well received and from 1777, she worked in provincial companies, gradually building up her reputation. Her next Drury Lane appearance in 1782 could not have been more different. She was an immediate sensation playing the title role in Garrick's adaptation of a play by Thomas Southerne, 'Isabella'.
She subsequently took on Shakespearian characters from Rosalind and Ophelia to Desdemona, but her most famous role was that of Lady Macbeth. It was said that the grandeur of her emotions as she expressed Lady Macbeth's murderous passions, held her audiences spellbound. This was the beginning of twenty years in which she was the undisputed queen of Drury Lane. Her celebrity status has been called "mythical" and "monumental," and by the mid 1780s Siddons was established as a cultural icon.
In 1802 she left Drury Lane and later appeared at Covent Garden. It was there, on the 29th June 1812, that she made her last appearance, playing her most famous role, Lady Macbeth. The audience refused to allow the play to continue after the end of the sleepwalking scene. Eventually, after tumultuous applause from the pit, the curtain reopened and Siddons was discovered sitting in her own clothes and character - whereupon she made an emotional farewell speech to the audience lasting eight minutes.
The portrait miniature by Horace Hone (1756-1825) was painted at the height of her career on Drury lane. Wearing a light brown dress and wide brimmed hat, she props her face up against her right hand, in a thoughtful gaze. By this period, there was a growing demand for images of the celebrities of the day and theatre proved a good source of commission for miniaturists.
Other historical celebrities in the sale include a portrait miniature of Charles Dickens painted in 1868 by Walter Saunders Barnard (1851-1930) two years before Dickens died. It is estimated to sell for £1,500- 2,500. A portrait miniature of novelist Sir Walter Scott (1771 1832) by William Bishop Ford (1832 -1922) will also be offered by Bonhams. Considered to be the first English-language author to have a truly international career during his lifetime, the detailed portrait miniature is estimated to sell for £1,000- 1500.