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Paintings: G1025


Emily Pott


Other work on paper



Thais : Play not specified



Height: 48cm
Width: 28.2cm

Other materials

Oil on paper mounted on canvas


The number on the frame (683) does not seem to refer to any Garrick Club catalogue. "EMILY POTT / after Sir JOSHUA REYNOLDS" (on plaque)


Presented to the Garrick Club by Miss H L Brown, 1956

Other number

Gift 751

Related works

The original "Thais" (229x145) by Reynolds was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1781. It was bought from the artist by Hon. Charles Greville. 1787 sold to Wilbraham Tollemache (later 6th Earl of Dysart) then by descent to 9th Earl of Dysart who sold it to Wertheimer in 1888; acquired from Wertheimer by Baron Rothschild; it is currently hanging in the Morning Room at Waddesdon Manor (The National Trust). An untraced copy is believed to have been painted by Moses Haughton, Sr. (1734-1804) c.1787, prov. Lord Bateman, Christie's 11 April 1896 lot 130. "Thais". Style of Reynolds, 48x41cm, sold Christie's 17 July 1998 lot 231.

Engraving history

The original was engraved by Bartolozzi, 1792

Thais is depicted full-length in a billowing cream gown and red robe, holding a flaming torch. Behind her is a classical facade and a burning city. Thais was a courtesan and legendary lover of Alexander the Great, who in 331 BC looted the Persian city of Persopolis and set fire to the palaces of the Achaemenid kings. According to legend the sacking was an apparently unpremeditated act, prompted by Thais as a symbol of Alexander's burning passion.
In 1697 the story was celebrated in Dryden's poem "Alexander's Feast; or the Power of Musique. An Ode in Honour of Cecilia's Day":
"And the king seize'd a flambeau with zeal to destroy; / Thais led the way, / To light him to his prey, / And, like another Helen, fir'd another Troy."
When Reynolds exhibited Thais at the RA in 1781 it provoked intense conjecture over the identity of the model. Emily Warren was a notorious courtesan also known as Emily Bertie, Emily Coventry and Emily Pott, after Robert Pott, whose mistress she was at the time. Far from resenting the gossip surrounding the picture, it appears that Reynolds fully expected the viewing public to associate the legendary subject with a woman such as Emily Warren, not least because "Thais" was an awknowledged sobriquet for a courtesan or prostitute.
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