Attitudes (Lady Hamilton)  

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"Emma, Lady Hamilton is an Englishwoman of about 20 and is very beautiful and well built. She has a Greek dress made for her which suits her wonderfully. She lets her hair down, takes a couple of shawls, and presents such a variety of poses, gestures, expressions, etc., that one finally wonders whether one is dreaming. Accomplishments vainly attempted by many artists were here seen finished, spontaneous and in surprising variety: standing, kneeling, sitting, lying, serious, sad, teasing, voluptuous, repentant, enticing, menacing, anxious and so on, one follows after another. She changes the drapery of her scarves and makes a hundred different head-dresses with one and the same piece of material. The old Knight holds the lights for her, and is wholly absorbed in the business. He sees in her all the antiques, the beautiful profiles of Sicilian coins, and even the Apollo of Belvedere. Anyway, it is a delightful entertainment, and we enjoyed it two evenings. This morning she is being painted by Tischbein."-Italian Journey (1816–17), Goethe, cited in Sexual Life in England: Past and Present (1936)

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

As Sir William Hamilton's mistress, Emma Hamilton developed what she called her "Attitudes", using George Romney's idea of combining classical poses with modern allure as the basis for her act. This eventual cross between postures, dance, and acting, was first revealed in Spring 1787 by Sir William to a large group of European guests at his home in Naples, who quickly took to this new form of entertainment - guessing the names of the classical characters and scenes which Emma portrayed.

For her "Attitudes", Emma had her dressmaker make dresses modelled on those worn by peasant islanders in the Bay of Naples, and on loose-fitting garments such as she wore when modelling for Romney. The performance was a sensation across Europe. Using a few shawls, she posed as various classical figures from Medea to Queen Cleopatra, and her performances charmed aristocrats, artists such as Élisabeth-Louise Vigée-Le Brun, writers — including the great Johann Wolfgang von Goethe — and kings and queens alike, setting off new dance trends across Europe and starting a fashion for a draped Grecian style of dress.

Attitudes were taken up by several other (female) artists, among them Ida Brun from Denmark, who became Emmas successor. The famed sculptor Alberto Thorvaldsen admired her art. Attitudes was, of course, a form of "mime art", which disappeared for a long time, only to surface again in the 20th century. Emma developed her Attitudes from mere poses to small, wordless plays - in her later years she excelled as Medea.

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