About the dealer

About the object

Portrait of the English poet Judith Madan (1702-1781), standing three-quarter length in a classical landscape wearing an oyster coloured silk gown with blue cloak, holding her quill, beside a bas-relief of the Muses. Inscribed lower left 'Mrs Judith Cowper 1721) AET 21'. Further inscription lower centre right 'KAEIO', the Greek name for Clio, the muse of history, writing and poetry. Oil on canvas in a giltwood frame.

Dimensions: 151 x 127cm (59 1/2 x50in)


Property of the Minnesota Historical Society from the Mary Griggs Burke Collection.

By descent in the Madan family until sold at Christie's, London, 23rd May 1930, lot 158, by the Rev. Henry Madan-Pratt, sold to Collins.

Judith Madan was the fifth child and only daughter of the judge and MP Spencer Cowper (1670-1728) and his wife, Pennington (1665, d.1727) of Hertingfordbury Park, Hertfordshire. From her mid-teens she composed verse, mainly in heroic couplets, inspired by the poets she was reading.  She is likely to have met the poet Alexander Pope whilst sitting for a pastel portrait by his friend Charles Jervas  and in the years 1722-3 she conducted a literary correspondence with him who encouraged her writing. He wrote and sent her a poem 'To a Lady on her Birthday' which he also sent to another Lady he admired, Martha Blount. Her work incliuded 'The Progress of Poetry' (1721) surveying English poets from Chaucer to Pope which was included in 'The Flower Piece' published in 1731 and re-published as a separate poem as late as 1783. In 1721 she wrote 'Abelard to Eloisa' which was a response to Pope`s 'Eloisa to Abelard'. She wrote less after her marriage in 1723 to Colonel Martin Madan who was the Groom to the Bedchamber to Frederick,  Prince of Wales and MP for Wootton Bassett, by whom she had nine children.  She was praised in John Duncombe's 'Feminiad' (1754) and some of her work appeared in 'Poems by Eminent Ladies '(1755) edited by George Colman and Bonnell Thornton. In 1769 'Letters of the Late Alexander Pope, Esq. to a Lady' appeared for the first time in print, though Madan, the addressee, was not named. She died in London and was buried in Grosvenor Chapel in Grosvenor Square, leaving much unpublished material. Her nephew was the poet William Cowper.


Jonathan Richardson the Elder was born in London in 1665 and studied under John Riley from 1688 until Riley`s death in 1691. He became Riley`s heir and married Riley`s neice. He established a very successful portrait practice and owned an important collection of old master drawings (many of which were purchased by Hudson, Reynolds and eventually Lawrence).. In 1715 he published 'The Theory of Painting' and together with his son an account of the works to see in Italy - both became highly influential works, inspiring Reynolds to become a painter. He helped found The Royal Academy in 1711 and among his pupils were Richardson Jnr, Knapton and Hudson who married one of his daughters. 



Falconer Madan 'The Madan Family and Maddens in Ireland and England' 1933.

Stewart and Cutten 'The Dictionary of Portrait Painters in Britain up to 1920.'1997.

R. Strong 'The British Portrait 1660-1960' 1991.


151 x 127cm