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Willem Wissing, ca. 1656–1687

Elizabeth FitzGerald, Countess of Kildare

Former Title(s):

Elizabeth Jones, Countess of Kildare

Elizabeth, Countess of Kildare, as a Shepherdess

ca. 1684
Materials & Techniques:
Oil on canvas
49 1/2 x 39 3/4 inches (125.7 x 101 cm), Frame: 59 3/4 × 49 3/4 × 4 inches (151.8 × 126.4 × 10.2 cm)

Inscribed lower right in yellow paint: "THE COVNTESS OF|KILLDARE"

Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Fund
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
Paintings and Sculpture
Subject Terms:
animal | botany | brocade | chemise dress | costume | countess | curls | earrings | flowers (plants) | fringe | hat | necklace | pattern (design element) | pearls | portrait | science | seated | sheep | shepherdess | sitting | staff (walking stick) | trees | woman
Associated People:
Fitzgerald, Elizabeth (née Jones), Countess of Kildare (1665–1758), wife of 18th Earl of Kildare (1661–1707)
Not on view
IIIF Manifest:

Elizabeth FitzGerald (née Jones) was born into a prominent Anglo-Irish family. Her father, the Earl of Ranelagh, was a dissolute rake, eventually impeached for misappropriating government funds to support his lifestyle, while her mother’s wealth was derived from the slave-based economy in the new colony of Barbados. In this portrait, Willem Wissing depicts the sitter in the benign guise of a shepherdess tending to her flock while dressed in sumptuous textiles, coy and demure in an imagined Arcadian landscape that blurs the lines between fantasy and reality. It is likely that this portrait commemorates her marriage to the Earl of Kildare, another member the Irish aristocracy, in 1684, a match that proved childless.

Gallery label for installation of YCBA collection, 2017

Lady Kildare (1664/65-1758) was born Elizabeth Jones, daughter of the Anglo-Irish politician Richard Jones, Earl of Ranelagh (1641-1712). She was immensely wealthy. Her mother and namesake (d. 1695) was the daughter and co-heir of Lord Willoughby of Parham (ca. 1614-1666), a particularly successful landowning governor of the colony of Barbados (which you see to your right in a view by Isaac Sailmaker). Lady Kildare was the second wife of John FitzGerald, 18th Earl of Kildare. His previous wife died of smallpox in 1683 and was buried in Westminster Abbey. This portrait was presumably painted, and the notional disguise of a shepherdess carefully selected, to mark the occasion of Lord Kildare's bountiful second marriage (a transaction worth £10,000). The ceremony took place in St. Martin's-in-the-Fields. Lady Kildare lived to the great age of 93, and in 1758 joined her husband, his first wife, and their son in Westminster Abbey.

Gallery label for installation of YCBA collection, 2005

Ireland - Art on a World Stage 1690-1840 (The Art Institute of Chicago, 2015-03-17 - 2015-06-07) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

"Brilliant Effects" [ Jewels ] (Yale Center for British Art, 2003-07-10 - 2004-01-10) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Painted Ladies : Women at the Court of Charles II (Yale Center for British Art, 2002-01-26 - 2002-03-17) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition] [Exhibition Description]

Painted Ladies : Women at the Court of Charles II (National Portrait Gallery, 2001-10-11 - 2002-01-06) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition] [Exhibition Description]

Acquisitions : The First Decade 1977-1986, Yale Center for British Art , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 1986, p. 20, no. 57, N590.2 A7 OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

Malcolm Cormack, Concise Catalogue of Paintings in the Yale Center for British Art, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 1985, pp. 256-257, N590.2 A83 (YCBA) [YCBA]

William Laffan, Ireland : crossroads of art and design, 1690-1840, The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, 2015, pp. 50, 51, 236, no. 137, fig. 17 (p/ 51), N6787 .I74 2015 OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

Catharine MacLeod, Painted ladies : Women at the court of Charles II, , National Portrait Gallery, London, 2001, pp. 204-205, 243, no. 98, ND1314.3 M23 2001 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Renee Hannaford Ramsey, The Poet as Art Critic, Identity and Representation in Marvell's "The Gallery" , Studies in Iconography, vol. 15, Kalamazoo, MI, 1993, pp. 222-223, fig. 2, NX1 S84 15 (HAAS) [ORBIS]

Aileen Ribeiro, Fashion and fiction, dress in art and literature in Stuart England , Yale University Press, New Haven, 2005, pp. 268-269, no. 170, NX650 C663 R53+ (YCBA) [YCBA]

Duncan Robinson, Acquisitions : The First Decade 1977 - 1986, , Burlington Magazine, vol. 128, October 1986, p. 20, no. 57, N1 B87 128:3 OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

Sotheby's sale catalogue : Catalogue of British Paintings, 1500-1850 : 11 July 1984, Sotheby's, London, July 11, 1984, pp. 36-37, lot 27, Auction Catalogues (YCBA) [OCLC]

Roy C. Strong, The British portrait, 1660-1960, Antique Collectors' Club, Woodbridge, Suffolk, 1991, p. 91, col. pl. 13, ND1314 B743 1991 (YCBA) [YCBA]

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