Kitty Fisher by Nathaniel Hone (1765)

Kitty Fisher by Nathaniel Hone, oil on canvas, 1765 National Portrait Gallery London

Kitty Fisher by Nathaniel Hone, oil on canvas, 1765
National Portrait Gallery London


Kitty Fisher (1741 – 1767) was a British socialite who, despite coming from a humble background, managed through her beauty, charm and wits to rise to  an elevated position, living a life of opulence and grandeur. She was the original celebrity. At a time of royalty and nobility she became an object of fascination, despite being without a title and born a commoner.

Born Catherine Marie Fischer she is believed to have started life poor, as a milliner,  but an introduction into London society (no doubt by a entranced suitor) propelled her into the world of the rich and powerful and she was able to become one of the best known woman of her time. She knew  Casanova! As the glamour girl of her day her dress, makeup, and hair were copied and desired. So, great was her attraction that she had multiple portraits (11) painted by the leading artists of the day including Nathaniel Hone, Sir Joshua Reynolds and others.

Her fame even led to her appearance in the old English nursery rhyme Lucy Locket:

“Lucy Locket lost her pocket,
Kitty Fisher found it;
But ne’er a penny was there in’t
Except the binding round it.”

In this portrait by Nathaniel Hone (possibly one of a few he painted) Kitty Fisher is seen demurely sitting, modestly yet elegantly dressed,  with a kitten who is trying to capture goldfish from a bowl. While the portrait is serious the kitten lends a lighter element with its attempts. (Early LOL cats?) Close examination of the goldfish bowl shows the reflection of people staring in at Kitty Fisher. Hone appears to include elements of Kitty Fishers life with her celebrity and adulation by the public. But does the kitten suggest she may fall in and drown?

The portrait is part of the permanent collection at the National Portrait Gallery, London.