The Daily Telegraph
Portrait of Britain’s first fat-shamed star goes on sale
AN 18th-century portrait of an actress thought to be Britain’s first “bodyshamed” celebrity has been unearthed.
Sarah Siddons, born in 1755, was the most famous stage star of her generation.
The actress was painted at the height of her fame by Sir Thomas Lawrence for a work exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1797.
But critics said it was “overly flattering” and made her look far younger than her 42 years.
Siddons put on a lot of weight in later life and once became stuck in a chair while playing Queen Catherine in a performance of Henry VIII.
Her size was mocked in cruel satirical cartoons in echoes of today’s “fat-shaming”.
Rumours even spread that the favourable portrayal was because Siddons and Lawrence, who painted her 14 times, were in a relationship.
The 36ins by 28ins oil on canvas painting is expected to fetch £12,000 at auction in Salisbury on Wednesday.
Paintings specialist Victor Fauvelle said: “Siddons was, by all accounts, an actress of considerable acclaim and talent who not only made the role of Lady Macbeth her own, but who played Hamlet multiple times up until the age of 50.
“That’s a remarkable feat, given the complexities of cross-gendered roles in the 18th-century theatre world.
“Many people believe that celebrity culture is a modern phenomenon, but Sarah had just as much cachet 250 years ago as someone like Kim Kardashian might have today.”