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Accompanying a major exhibition at the National Maritime Museum, showing from November 2016 to April 2017, this book provides a fresh evaluation of Emma Hamilton's artistic undertakings, cultural achievements and legacy. From humble origins, Emma Hamilton (1765-1815) rose to national and international fame as a model, performer, trendsetter and interpreter of neoclassical fashion. Yet, the host of books and films in which she has featured typically place her in a passive and supporting role. Emma is often presented as the muse to painters such as George Romney, or partially obscured by the reputation of her lover, Horatio Nelson, hero of naval battles in the Napoleonic Wars, culminating in the Battle of Trafalgar (1805). The tragic trajectory of her life, from childhood prostitution to final destitution and neglect, has also been used to present her story as by turns sordid and ridiculous. This landmark publication recovers Emma from myth and misrepresentation, and reveals her as an active and influential historical actor in her own right. The arc of this life - her ambitions, creative endeavours, successes and hardships - is viewed through a new lens, one that places her in a wider context of female celebrity in a society that severely restricted women's opportunities and in which divorce was a far greater shame than infidelity or cruelty.
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