Mrs. Thomas Pelham (Anneta, daughter of Thomas Bridges, wife of Thomas Pelham)

William Hoare, Joseph Highmore1720s

Spencer Museum of Art

Spencer Museum of Art

This unconventional portrait, depicting an elite English beauty just after her marriage in 1725, represents the real and imaginary ties that connected early 18th-century England to the Ottoman Empire. Anneta Pelham was the wife of a prominent merchant whose frequent travels to Constantinople earned him the nickname “Turk” Pelham. During the pre-Colonial period, English merchants working in the Ottoman Near East served a diplomatic role, relaying political and military intelligence and facilitating the exchange of ideas. By donning an ornately embroidered Turkish jacket and turban-like headpiece strung with pearls, Anneta Pelham advertises her husband’s connections to the East. She engages the viewer with her supercilious gaze, her lips twisting into a subtle smile. This woman’s striking sensuality—her relaxed pose and the tactilityof the lustrous velvet jacket comingling with the creamy softness of her décolleté—allude to attractions that western Europeans ascribed to Ottoman women, who were becoming subjects of literary fantasy.

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  • Title: Mrs. Thomas Pelham (Anneta, daughter of Thomas Bridges, wife of Thomas Pelham)
  • Creator: Joseph Highmore, William Hoare
  • Date Created: 1720s
  • Physical Dimensions: Canvas/Support Dimensions: 50 x 40 in, Canvas/Support Dimensions: 127 x 101.6 cm, Frame Dimensions: 57 1/2 x 48 1/2 in
  • Type: paintings
  • Medium: oil on canvas

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