ABSTRACT

This paper recognises the intimacy and inextricability of the relationship between image and text, and reads visual representations of Mary Robinson along with her own words. In this paper, I examine the two famous portraits of Robinson painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds in 1782 and 1784 respectively, before I turn to her autobiography, Memoirs of the Late Mrs. Robinson, Written by Herself (1801). This study seeks to explore the dynamic nature of performative modes and particularly the presence of female performers in visual and textual ways, and to investigate how Robinson employs different media and venues to recuperate and invent a new identity for herself in the late eighteenth century. This study prompts readers/viewers to think about the possible collusion or incompatibility between textual and visual dimensions. It also points out the need to situate Robinson’s multiple personas and representations within the development of events that characterised her life and person, and also to problematise self-narratives and the political and social contexts in which they emerge.

KEYWORDS: portraiture, Sir Joshua Reynolds, Mary Robinson, Perdita, autobiography