'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, 34(1-2), pp. 89-106. ISSN 1522-7464 [Article]

No full text available
[img] Text
Joncus-ALikenessNone-2009.pdf - Published Version
Permissions: Administrator Access Only

Download (4MB)

Abstract or Description

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.

Item Type:


Additional Information:

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 and the twelfth conference of the Répertoire International d'Iconographie Musicale New York, 11–14 March 2008

Departments, Centres and Research Units:




Item ID:


Date Deposited:

22 Mar 2024 14:32

Last Modified:

22 Mar 2024 14:32

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.



View statistics for this item...

Edit Record Edit Record (login required)