Cranborne or Wimborne? A Mystery Uncovered in Collaboration with Museums Sheffield. By Lawrence Hendra
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In conjunction with Museums Sheffield following their generous support when putting together our Divine People exhibition, research undertaken by Philip Mould & Company has established a mistaken identity behind one of Ambrose McEvoy's most exciting and unusual compositions.
For many years this portrait was thought to depict Lady Elizabeth Gascoyne-Cecil, Viscountess Cranborne; however, recent research undertaken in preparation for this exhibition has confirmed the sitter is, in fact, Lady Alice Guest, Viscountess Wimborne, a well-known socialite of the era.
McEvoy had painted Wimborne earlier, in 1917, and the commission was certainly one of his less straightforward ones. His sitter was the wife of Ivor Churchill Guest, 1st Viscount Wimborne who was Lord Lieutenant of Ireland during the penultimate phase of English rule. They lived in Dublin and divided their time between apartments in Dublin Castle and Viceregal Lodge (now Áras an Uachtaráin, the official residence of the president of Ireland). Their lifestyle was famously excessive, and they would often stage extravagant balls and dinners as if entertaining at court, earning them the nickname ‘Their Majesties’, with Lady Wimborne being dubbed ‘Queen Alice’.
She sat to McEvoy for her first portrait in London and was portrayed wearing Grecian-inspired draperies with a curtain behind and landscape background beyond (this first portrait is now only known through a poor colour photograph.