New portrait comes to Croome

The new portrait of Maria Gunning at Croome © National Trust

The new portrait of Maria Gunning at Croome

The team at Croome are excited to announce their recent acquisition of a pastel drawing of Maria Gunning, one of the more interesting figures in Croome’s history.

The pastel, attributed to Francis Cotes, was purchased at auction by Lord Flight and donated in November 2013.

Who was Maria Gunning?

Maria Gunning led a colourful and varied life, becoming known as one of the most famous society beauties of her day. Born around 1733, she moved with her family to live in Ireland in the early 1740s, living in genteel poverty in Dublin and at the ancestral home of Castlecoote House in Roscommon.

With her sister, Maria worked in the theatres of Dublin but after their mother was granted a generous pension, the sisters returned to England to enter Society. They were presented at Court in December 1750.

How Maria came to Croome

In March 1752, Maria married George William Coventry, 6th Earl of Coventry who had engaged Capability Brown to design the house and parkland at Croome in 1751. The couple toured Europe visiting Paris where Maria developed a taste for wearing excessive amounts of rouge on her face, as was then fashionable.

Unfortunately, these cosmetics contained toxic amounts of lead and arsenic and despite her husband’s dislike of the make-up, she continued to wear it in large amounts. This resulted in a fatal dose of lead poisoning and Maria Gunning died in September 1760 at only 27 years of age.

Conserving Maria's portrait

Conservation work will be undertaken on the pastel with the Winchester National Trust Association kindly contributing towards this work.

The pastel will be re-mounted and re-framed and will hopefully be displayed in one of the ground floor rooms at Croome.