A Lady with a Lyre Guitar

Image credit: The Bowes Museum

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The sitter is represented holding a lyre guitar that probably belonged to the entourage of Napoleon’s sister, Elisa Baciocchi, the Grand Duchess of Lucca. It has been suggested the sitter is Elisa’s lady-in-waiting Olympia Cenami, who had been portrayed by the same artist in 1809, but a comparison between the paintings does not fully confirm this. It has also been proposed that she may be the singer and musician Teresa Bottini, who was part of the Duchess’ court. The furniture in the painting is of the First Empire style. The lyre guitar was popular in Europe between 1780 and 1820, especially in Paris where it was very much in vogue as a salon instrument. The fret board is located between two curved arms recalling the shape of the ancient Greek lyre.

The Bowes Museum

Barnard Castle


A Lady with a Lyre Guitar




oil on canvas


H 59.7 x W 48.2 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

bequeathed by the Founders, 1885

Work type



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Normally on display at

The Bowes Museum

Barnard Castle, County Durham DL12 8NP England

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