Richard and Maria Cosway

By Gerald Barnett

A carefully researched biography of the Cosways, two fascinating but often neglected figures in 18th-century English art history, emphasises their achievements.

ISBN: 9780718829445


Richard Cosway was once a more famous artist than Gainsborough. His portraits of the fashionable were the rage in Regency London. From 1785 he became First Painter to the Prince of Wales – the only artist ever to have been accorded such a title. He and his wife Maria entertained everybody who was anybody. Herself a talented artist in her own right, she was also a composer, musician and authority on girls’ education. Thomas Jefferson fell in love with her; Napoleon doted on her.

And yet, save for Richard Cosway’s pre-eminence as a miniaturist, he and Maria have long been neglected by the public, their reputation tarnished by rumour and misrepresentation. Here, Gerald Barnett seeks to present them in a truer and clearer light, emphasising their achievements as artists and individuals and rehabilitating them as major figures in the artistic history of eighteenth-century England.

Richard Cosway was the subject of major exhibitions at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery (Edinburgh) and the National Portrait Gallery (London) from August 1995. Richard and Maria Cosway feature prominently as characters in the Merchant-Ivory film Jefferson in Paris.

Additional information

Dimensions 229 × 146 mm
Pages 292
Illustrations b&w and colour

Trade Information LGEN

About the Author

Gerald Barnett was born in Exeter and spent much of his life serving in the Royal Navy. Now retired, Commander Barnett has long been an enthusiastic collector of English portrait miniatures and drawings and has been a champion of the Cosways’ reputation for much of the past 20 years.


List of Illustrations and Note for General Readers
Foreword by Daphne Foskett

I. Richard Cosway, Birth and Origins
II. A Student in London
III. Societies, Academies and Friends
IV. Maria Hadfield, Birth and Origins
V. Marriage and Berkeley Street
VI. Schomberg House and the Future King
VII. Illness and Recuperation
VIII. The Romance with Thomas Jefferson
IX. London, Paris and the Dispossessed
X. Calumnies and Disappointments
XI. Motherhood and Separation
XII. Stratford Place and Death of Louisa
XIII. Girls’ Education and Life Without Louisa
XIV. The Louvre, Lyons and Lodi
XV. The Long Estrangement
XVI. The Artist as Visionary
XVII. Reunion and Death
XVIII. The Return to Lodi

I. List of Engraved Works
II. My Head and My Heart
III. The Royal Academicians – A Farce (Extracts)
IV. The Cosway Sales of 1792 and 1821
V. Chronology
VI. Selected Letters

Notes and Bibliography

Endorsements and Reviews

A readable and entertaining book
Night and Day