William 3rd Viscount Courtenay (miniature)

Ownership/credit: Purchased with support from the MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund, the Art Fund, the Reynolds Chard bequest and the Friends of RAMM.

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Born near Tiverton, Devon, Richard Cosway became the most fashionable miniaturist in Regency England. William Courtenay was an important patron and both men shared a taste for lavish parties and fancy dress. Here, Courtenay wears ‘Van Dyck’ costume, named after the 17th-century Flemish painter.

Known as ‘Kitty’ to family and friends, Courtenay inherited Powderham Castle, near Exeter, in 1788. He left England in 1811 to live in America, and then Paris in 1825, where he spent the rest of his life. There has been much debate about his affair with the art collector William Beckford. Kitty’s homosexuality certainly contributed to him being shunned by society and forced to flee abroad.

This object is not on display.

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