Regency Artist: Amelia Curran

While I was reading the great biography, “Mary Shelley and the Curse of Frankenstein” by Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler, I noticed these words beside a picture of Claire Clairmont:  ” The only known portrait of Mary Shelley’s stepsister.  It was painted in 1819 by Amelia Curran.”

Naturally, I had to learn more about Ms. Curran.

Amelia was born in Ireland in the year 1775.  Not much is known about her life, but when she was in her twenties she traveled to Italy to study painting.  There she befriended the radical  Percy and Mary Shelley.

In 1812, Amelia accompanied Percy back to Ireland where he campaigned against the British government’s injustices.

Three of her paintings of Percy now hang in London’s National Portrait Gallery and are noted for capturing his strangely beautiful androgynous features.

Amelia completed this portrait of Mary and Percy’s son, William, not long before he succumbed to illness in Rome.  He was only three years-old.  It is the only known portrait of him to exist.

In 1821, whilst living in Naples, Amelia converted to Catholicism and excelled in copying portraits of Renaissance Madonnas.   Presumably, she never married, and died quietly in 1847.  She is buried in the Church of St. Isadore in Rome.

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14 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. “Converted to Catholicism?”

    So she wasn’t from the Catholic majority, but born a Protestant. Interesting in that perhaps her family were absentee landowners and she ended up campaigning against them.

  2. Hey Ralfast,

    Her father was a barrister and she belonged to the Church of Ireland as a child. I really wish I could have found more information about her.

  3. I can see where she got the streak of defiance then.

  4. So typical for there to be so little information about female artists (and writers, for that matter). Were you able to find any of her other paintings, apart from the ones she did of the Shelleys?

  5. I hear you, DD. And sadly, no. I was hoping to find some of her Madonna replicas, at least.

  6. I love the fact that you decided to write a post about the artist instead of Clair Claremont. I love it when I’m reading something and get an idea from some little detail that has little to do with what the reading is about.

    The portrait of the Shelley’s son is beautiful. I can guess that he would have grown into a handsome young man if he had lived. I wonder if Ms. Curran didn’t marry by choice or if no one offered. No portraits of Ms. Curran?

  7. “I love it when I’m reading something and get an idea from some little detail that has little to do with what the reading is about.”

    Lyra, that’s one of the things I love about history. One bit of info leads to another. It’s like a neverending treasure hunt. 🙂

    I wasn’t able to find any pics of Ms. Curran. There’s just a small Wicki page on her. According to that, there was a rumor once that she’d married while traveling, but that turned out to be mere gossip. There wasn’t any other mention of a real husband and/or children, so I’m assuming she didn’t have any.

  8. So sad, the child dying when he was only three.

    Do you know what illness he had?

  9. I need to read that book now

  10. Marian,

    It was from malaria. 😦

  11. Chazz, the biography by the Hooblers is very good. Very informative and entertaining at the same time.

  12. I love the title of the book. The whole concept of a great work of fiction being a curse intrigues me

  13. I wish more people still did portraits. Really. So much cooler for posterity.

  14. Heya Colby,

    I’ve always loved portraits.


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