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(Augusta) Ada King, Countess of Lovelace (1815-1852) Mathematician; Daughter of Lord Byron

Margaret Sarah Carpenter

(Augusta) Ada King, Countess of Lovelace (1815-1852) Mathematician; Daughter of Lord Byron


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ArtistMargaret Sarah Carpenter (1793-1872)
Title(Augusta) Ada King, Countess of Lovelace (1815-1852) Mathematician; Daughter of Lord Byron
Date1836
MediumOil on canvas
ProvenanceCollection of 4th Earl of Lytton; from whom purchased by Leggatt Bros. on behalf of the Ministry of Works in 1953
ExhibitionRoyal Academy, London, summer 1836 (catalogue number 136), as ‘Lady King’; Messrs. Shepherd's Gallery, London, 1899; Byron exhibition, V&A Museum, London, 19 April to 25 August 1974; 'Sieben Hugel - Bilder und Zeichen des 21. Jahrhunderts', Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin 14 May to 29 October 2000; St. Mary Magdelene Church, Hucknall, Nottinghamshire, during International Byron Festival, 30 June to 16 July 2006; 'Government Art Collection: Selected by Downing Street Staff: 12 from No 10', Whitechapel Gallery, London, 9 March to 10 June 2012; 'Revealed: Government Art Collection', Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery 17 November 2012 to 24 February 2013, Ulster Museum, Belfast, 15 March to 9 June 2013
Dimensionsheight: 216.00 cm, width: 137.00 cm
Inscriptionbl: Margaret Carpenter / 1836
AcquisitionPurchased from the 4th Earl of Lytton via Leggatt Bros, June 1953
LocationUK, London, Downing Street
GAC number2172
 
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Ada, Countess of Lovelace wears a white dress and red cape trimmed with gold in this work by the prolific portrait painter Margaret Carpenter. Ada was the daughter of Lord Byron, the product of the poet’s year-long marriage to Annabella Milbanke in 1815. She was raised by her mother and became a mathematician, assisting Charles Babbage in his work on mechanical computers.

This work was painted in 1836, the year the first of Ada’s three children was born to her and her husband, William King, eighth Baron King of Ockham (created Earl of Lovelace in 1838). The portrait was well received when exhibited at the Royal Academy that year. However, Ada’s own response to Carpenter’s truthful likeness of herself was to quip:

I conclude she is bent on displaying the whole expanse of my capacious jaw bone, upon which I think the word Mathematics should be written.’

A note in ‘The Spectator’ of 1839 favours Carpenter’s ‘chaste and lady-like portrait’ of Ada over a now well-known watercolour portrait, painted some three years later by Alfred Edward Chalon, which is described as showing the sitter ‘courting admiration’. The watercolour is now in the collection of the Science Museum, London.

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This work contains the following Sitters; choose a link below to cross-refer to other works in the collection:

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Margaret Sarah Carpenter

Margaret Sarah Carpenter was born Margaret Geddes in Salisbury, Wiltshire; the daughter of a retired army officer. She studied under a local artist and copied Old Master paintings at the Earl of Radnor’s Longford Castle. The Earl helped fund her move to London in 1813, following which she won three gold medals at the Society of Arts. In c.1815 she was a pupil of Thomas Lawrence. She married William Hookham Carpenter and had eight children, three of whom died in infancy. Three surviving children would become painters. She lived in Marylebone before moving to the British Museum in 1852, her husband being Keeper of Prints and Drawings. She received over 100 commissions from Eton College and produced some 1,100 works in total, exhibiting 263.