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George Willison, 1741–1797
Nancy Parsons in Turkish dress
ca. 1771
Materials & Techniques:
Oil on copper
22 1/2 × 18 3/4 inches (57.2 × 47.6 cm)
Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
Paintings and Sculpture
Subject Terms:
basket | belt | cloth | costume | couch | dress | fabric | female | hat | headdress | mirror | Oriental | ornaments | portrait | reclining | rug | scarves | seated | Turkish | woman
Associated People:
Parsons, Anne [Nancy; married name Anne Maynard, Viscountess Maynard] (c.1735–1814/15), courtesan and political mistress
Not on view
IIIF Manifest:

Nancy Parsons was one of the most famous courtesans of the eighteenth century. Her aristocratic clients included the young Duke of Grafton, prime minister between 1768 and 1770. Parsons was often seen with the married duke in public until they split in 1769, something that attracted criticism but which also gave them both an aura of transgressive glamour. Her image circulated widely in everything from fine engravings to scurrilous satirical prints. In this seductive portrait by George Willison, she is represented “à la Turque,” that is, in a fanciful western appropriation of Ottoman costume at a time when the Ottoman Empire was regarded as decadent, enervated by luxury and pleasure. Parsons had taken the Duke of Dorset as her lover when Willison painted this portrait, and it was reproduced immediately in mezzotint by the Irish engraver James Watson.

Gallery label for installation of YCBA collection, 2022

Lure of the East - British Orientalist Painting (Yale Center for British Art, 2008-02-07 - 2008-04-28) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition] [Exhibition Description]

Mildred Archer, India and British Portraiture, 1770-1825, Sotheby Parke Bernet, London, 1979, pp. 98-9, 494, fig. 55, ND 1327 I44 A72 (YCBA) [YCBA]

John Barrell, Painting and the politics of culture : new essays on British art, 1700-1850, Claredon Press, Oxford, p. 68, fig. 2.11, N6766 P35 1992 [ORBIS]

Malcolm Cormack, Concise Catalogue of Paintings in the Yale Center for British Art, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 1985, pp. 250-251, N590.2 A83 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Painting in England 1700-1850 from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, The Royal Academy of Arts Winter Exhibition 1964-65., , Royal Academy of Arts, London, UK, 1964, p. 63 (v.1), no. 227, ND466 R68 1964/65 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Romita Ray, Under the banyan tree, relocating the picturesque in British India , The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, New Haven, pp. 187-89, fig. 83, N8214.5.I5 R39 2013 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Aileen Ribeiro, The art of dress, fashion in England and France 1750 to 1820 , Yale University Press, New Haven, CT, 1995, p. 224, pl. 236, GT736 R53 1995 (YCBA) [YCBA]

The lure of the east : British Orientalist painting: wall labels, , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2008, p. [8], V 2577 (YCBA) V 2577 [YCBA]

The lure of the East, British orientalist painting, 1830-1925 , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2008, p. 16, V 1879 (YCBA) [YCBA]

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