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Mary Davis (c.1735–1825) rose from humble origins to marry the banker Alexander Nesbitt by 1762. She was apparently roundly unfaithful to her husband, who died insane and bankrupt in 1772. She then became the acknowledged mistress of the 3rd Earl of Bristol. Following his death in 1779, she benefited considerably from his will. The present picture, depicting Mrs. Nesbitt with the traditional symbol of Innocence, a dove (cf.
oil on canvas
75.5 x 62.5 cm
acquired by Richard Seymour-Conway, 4th Marquess of Hertford, 1859; bequeathed to the nation by Lady Wallace, 1897