Sarah Siddons v. Anonymous Lady v. Mrs. Robinson

Ever since Fashion Police gained a weekly spot on E!, I’ve been watching the show religiously.  “Bitch stole my look” is among my favorite segments and I thought it might be fun to take an occasional break from longer posts by comparing 18th century look-alikes.  We’ll call them Lady Brawlers and categorize them under Fashion Hurts.

This week I have two (or three depending on your opinion) ladies sparring for top props.  While Sarah Siddons and anonymous lady are copycats from the neck up, anonymous lady and Mrs. Robinson could very well be the same person.

Sarah Siddons by Thomas Gainsborough, 1785

Portrait of unidentified English lady after a painting by Hoppner or Reynolds (late C18) © The Trustees of the British Museum

The Telegraph identifies the print as Mrs. Robinson

Mrs. Robinson as Perdita by John Hoppner, 1782

Clearly, anonymous lady and Mrs. Robinson are sporting similar poses and ensembles, but they can’t steal each others’ look if they are indeed the same person!  Going on a facial comparison alone, I see two different women, but they do resemble one another with the anonymous lady slightly more pinched in her features.

What say you?  Is there some sartorial thievery going on here?  And, of course, the essential question: who wears the look with the most panache?

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13 thoughts on “Sarah Siddons v. Anonymous Lady v. Mrs. Robinson

  1. Mrs Robinson certainly looks far better than the previous two ladies! she has something about her that captures the viewer’s eye completely! and, by the way, i find it very ingenious, this post!

    1. Why, thank you, Madame de Pique.

      Mrs. Robinson gets my vote as well. She’s fresh faced (very peachy, in fact), looking kindly at us, and I can’t help but admire the red details on her gown. Sarah Siddons seems distant and offers us a moue, if I’m not mistaken. I might even be convinced she’s bored. And anonymous lady, well she just looks like trouble! I would watch my reticule around her.

  2. It may simply be an unfinished part of the painting or a lighting choice, but I really like the black arrangement atop (and including) Mrs. Siddons’ hat. It adds great drama (to an actual drama queen). Yes, she does appear aloof: some of us may have a weakness for dismissive women with aggressive profiles. I like the execution of Gainsborough, but I have to agree, Mrs. Robinson seems to be a real person, less idealized, but the clothing seems hastily assembled.

    The comparison seems to be:

    Siddons/Gainsborough = Hasselblad + makeup & hair by Lisa Eldridge + clothing by Maria Grachvogel.
    If you tapped her shoulder she’d say: “What?…wait, what?”

    Mrs. Robinson/Reynolds = Canon + makeup & hair by Hollywood makeup designer/friend + clothing by Versace and J.Crew.
    If you tapped her shoulder she’d say: “Hi! So, how do I look? Be honest.”

    Anonymous lady/Engraving = Xerox machine + makeup & hair by Adobe Photoshop + clothing by clip art.
    If you tapped her shoulder she’d say: “Congtratulations! You’ve won!” (followed by inumerable popups).

    1. “Some of us may have a weakness for dismissive women with aggressive profiles.” Peter, you may have just told us something about you!

      I actually like Siddons’ strong profile, but I don’t *feel* anything when I look at her. She is elegantly styled and statuesque. Despite her fur muff (or is it a stole?), she seems cold. The hat looks unfinished to me, but it’s a distinctly moody element with the dense black coloring. As a tragedienne, it fits her.

      Your comparison cracked me up. Versace and J. Crew for Robinson! You have a point though. The sleeves are very voluminous and the hat is a milliner’s nightmare. Now that I look closer, it’s distracting that the feathers are the same color as her hair. They look like dog fur, not feathers, and the jewel pinned haphazardly on the brim makes me think she threw a necklace into her dog’s bed and then decided to put the whole mess on her head. I appreciate her look, but the bodice is trashy (like visible corset lacings). But she’s in character as Perdita so that’s her excuse!

      1. As fresh a painting as the Reynolds is, I’m weirded out by the decision to eliminate her left forearm. The treatment of the sleeve material and the bow makes her arm appear be aimed outward, toward the viewer. Are we missing something? Was this once a larger painting, with her hand resting on a cane (like van Dyck’s Charles I), or fingers perhaps clenching the hair of John the Baptist? Her expression gives us no clue…

      2. I vote for clenching the hair of John the Baptist. The angle does look odd and if she were extending her forearm, the gesture might look self-congratulatory (especially if she’s holding a head!)

        A quick search produced no mention of the portrait being cropped but would the exclusion of her forearm be intentional? Perhaps this was her problem: Henry Fuseli’s Ritratto di Giovane Donna

  3. I’ve just found this blog. What a treat!
    Regarding the three portraits, artists of the day sometimes painted the background and sketched in the clothing before the model sat for the portrait. This would account for the similarity of style. The “necklace” on Mrs. Robinson’s hat is a functional bit that holds the side of the hat up out of one’s face. I personally wish I could come up with a good excuse to both construct and wear on of these lovely hats which so perfectly frame the face while looking like a dog bed all at once. Ms. Siddons is wearing a stole and holding a muff ( a contemporary fashion which accounts for the running double entendre gag in Tom Jones The Musical). I would say that the artist for Mrs. R. dosed off–perhaps too much drink? Peter’s assessment of today’s equivalent has me fdlol

    1. Hi Jane! Thanks for stopping by.

      Yes, Peter’s assessment was wonderfully amusing. I wonder if female sitters complained about their figures being corrupted if their clothes were painted on after the fact?

      Mrs. R is a disaster, but one I can
      appreciate. She’s fetching – the artist’s rendering, not so much. If I recall correctly, it’s a theatre costume so perhaps there was some license there for wearing a dog bed hat on one’s head.

  4. Hi the paintings number 2 and 3 are the same. Mary Robinson was George VI when he was prince of wales. He fell in love with her when he saw her play Perdita. She became famous overnight she was painted by every artist usually in the clothes of her character. Hope this helps I love her in Hoppners.

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