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Mrs Clara Maria Pope (1767 - 1838)

Portrait of Miss Nora Brickenden

Watercolour on paper

Museum number: P15

Curatorial note

Miss Brickenden is shown standing on a terrace next to a pedestal supporting an urn full of flowers. Webster points out that this is very similar to the background in the portrait by Mrs Pope of the famous soprano Madame Catalani, 1812, which suggests that it was a stock formula.

Soane seems to have first met the young Eleanora Nora ('Nora') Brickenden while he was staying with his old friend Richard Holland in Devon in 1811. Soane's biographer Gillian Darley notes that 'Soane, always susceptible to flattery and attention from women, was superficially ensnared by the impressionable vicar's daughter from Hereford'. In the summer of 1813 she was in London and seen in Soane's company. Elilza Soane, away in the country, learned of this from a friend and wrote to her husband: 'I really think that there is much more fuss made about Miss B. than she deserves. For in my opinion any woman turned thirty that affects to be romantic and professes platonic love, 'tis only a cloak for intrigue'. Eliza broke off her friendship wtih the artist of this portrait, Clara Maria Pope, considering her to be disloyal for painting it. Eleanora eventually married a clergyman, the Revd (later Archdeacon) Davies and went to live in Brecon in Wales, from where she continued to correspond with Soane until the end of his life.

The portrait hangs in the Dressing Room on the ground floor close to another portait of a close woman friend, that of Maria Denman. This small and intimate private space is next to the 'Little Study', where Soane almost certainly worked on his architectural projects when he was in Lincoln's Inn Fields.

Letters in the Soane archive refer to 'Nora' Brickenden but her name is given variously as Nora or Norah in modern accounts and her given name usually as Eleanora but sometimes as Eleanor.

Literature

Mary Webster, 'A Regency Flower Painter: Clara Maria Pope', Country Life May 18 1967 pp.1246-1248.
Gillian Darley, John Soane: An Accidental Romantic, 1999, pp.203, 220-21, 229, 241, 245-248; this portait p.337n


If you have any further information about this object, please contact us: worksofart@soane.org.uk