Portrait of Frances Burdett as Emma the Nut-Brown Maid

Francis Cotes, English, 1726 - 1770

Made in England, Europe


Oil on canvas

43 1/2 x 33 1/2 inches (110.5 x 85.1 cm)

Curatorial Department:
European Painting

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Gift of Muriel and Philip Berman, 1989

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In the fifteenth-century ballad “The Nut-Brown Maid,” a young girl’s fidelity is tested when she is asked to follow her outlaw lover into the woods and into an uncertain, troubled future. When she promises to do so and thus proves her love, her lover reveals that he is, in fact, a nobleman. Rewritten in 1709 as a poem by Matthew Prior, and later made into a play, the story of Emma, the Nut-Brown Maid delighted eighteenth-century readers. Many women desired to have their portraits painted as the character Emma, and were often shown, as here, hanging a wreath made of flowers and their lover’s hair on a tree branch.