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Georgiana, Moriarty and the mystery of a painting

Georgiana, Moriarty and the mystery of a painting

Written by Netta Christie on March 19, 2018

Last week I attended an interesting talk, given by the head guide at Chatsworth in the newly refurbished pump room in Buxton

 

Last week I attended an interesting talk, given by the head guide at Chatsworth, in the newly refurbished pump room in Buxton.

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As you know we are rather fond of the story of Georgiana, the wife of the 5th Duke of Devonshire, and share lots of her story on our tours of the town and in our own talks to various groups .The picture we show people can be seen below and was painted by Thomas Gainsborough in 1787 when she was 30 years old. It was originally a full length portrait but was cut almost in half so that it would fit more neatly above a fireplace!!

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What I didn’t know though was that the painting only returned to Chatsworth in the 1990’s after a few adventures of its own. My favourite part of the adventure is that the painting eventually comes into the collection of Wynn Ellis. Now Ellis (1790-1875) created the largest silk business in London was a Liberal MP, an extremely wealthy man and art collector. When he died in 1876, Gainsborough’s oil painting was auctioned at Sotheby’s for the record sum of £10 000 pounds It was purchased by Thomas Agnew & Sons yet after only three weeks, it was stolen from his gallery.
It was stolen by a man called Adam Worth

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Worth is a fascinating character and allegedly the inspiration for Arthur Conan Doyle’s character Moriarty.

“He is the Napoleon of crime, Watson.
He is the organizer of half that is evil and of nearly all that is undetected in this great city.
He is a genius, a philosopher, an abstract thinker. . . .
–Sherlock Holmes on Professor Moriarty in The Final Problem

He was the Victorian era’s most infamous thief but why he stole this particular picture is still a mystery as it was far too well known to sell on. It therefore remained hidden from sight for many many years.

Written by Leanne

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