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Last Updated: Friday, 7 March 2008, 08:56 GMT
Home town finds feminist painting
Elizabeth Carter portrait
The portrait of Elizabeth Carter was tracked down for the exhibition
An oil painting of an early feminist and founder member of the "Bluestocking Circle" has been discovered in the town where she once lived in Kent.

The portrait of Elizabeth Carter was found in Deal by researchers preparing for an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery.

It shows the classical scholar, who lived from 1717 to 1806, as Minerva, the goddess of wisdom and warfare.

The painting will now form part of the gallery's Brilliant Women exhibition.

The Bluestocking Circle was a group of women writers, artists and thinkers celebrated for forging new links between gender, learning and virtue in the 18th Century.

They met in the London homes of the fashionable hostesses Elizabeth Montagu, Elizabeth Vesey and Frances Boscawen from the 1750s.

Guests included Elizabeth Carter, critic and writer Samuel Johnson, novelist Fanny Burney, artists Frances Reynolds and her brother Sir Joshua and writer and dramatist Hannah More.

Friend's wall

Curators at the National Portrait Gallery found reference to the painting of Carter, by John Fayram, in a poem and a photograph sent to the gallery more than 60 years ago.

They could not track it down until they contacted an address in Deal, which was on the back of the picture and was where she once lived.

Then someone at the Deal Historical Society recognised the painting, which was hanging on a friend's wall.

The owner of the work, painted between 1735 and 1741, was given it by her father, who bought it during the 1930s when he lived at Carter's former home.

"While we had a lot of paintings of key Bluestocking women, Carter was one of the leading figures," said Dr Lucy Peltz, co-curator of the exhibition, which runs from 13 March to 15 June.

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