“A Likeness Where None Was To Be Found”: Imagining Kitty Clive (1711–1785).

Joncus, Berta. 2009. “A Likeness Where None Was To Be Found”: Imagining Kitty Clive (1711–1785). Music in Art: International Journal for Music Iconography, 34(1-2), pp. 89-106. ISSN 1522-7464 [Article]

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The coordination of portraiture with musical roles was vital to the success of star soprano Kitty Clive. Visual promotion of Clive served different functions at different stages of her career: invention (for ballad opera, 1729–1732), assertion (for high-style English song, 1734–1739); apotheosis (for music by Handel and Arne, 1740), and parody (for musical burlesque, 1748–1769). London’s theatrical, musical and print industries worked together to construct Clive’s star persona and ring its changes. Following the trend set by John Jay’s Beggar’s Opera (1728), Clive was initially portrayed as Gay’s lead soprano Lavinia Fenton had been, that is as a sexually available nymph—though the first Clive “portrait” of 1729 was not actually a likeness of her. Frontispieces to the ballad opera Damon and Phillida likewise dealt in a false Clive image by suggesting she was popular as Phillida when in fact she rarely appeared in the role. From 1732 Clive followed her huge success in ballad opera by distinguishing herself in more elevated English song, and was faithfully depicted in mezzotints praising her vocal skills. Her most lavish portrait (1740) broadcast her by now mythic status as London’s “Sweet Bird” by showing her holding Handel’s eponymous aria. Musical parody dominated Clive’s last two decades on stage, and as “Mrs. Riot” (from Lathe, 1748) she appeared on watchpapers and in porcelain and oil as well as engraving.

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Music, Body, and Stage: The Iconography of Music Music Theater and Opera
Selected papers presented at the tenth conference of the Research Center for Music Iconography
the twelfth conference of the Répertoire International d'Iconographie Musicale
New York, 11–14 March 2008

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Date Deposited:

08 Dec 2015 12:14

Last Modified:

30 Jun 2017 09:44

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.



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