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Marguerite Hyde Leiter, known as Daisy, was a wealthy American heiress, once described as ‘Daisy with the violet orbs…the loveliest eyes in Washington’. This portrait by the eminent society artist John Singer Sargent was painted in 1898 when she was 19. Sargent was the most celebrated and fashionable portraitist of the ‘Gilded Age’ (c.1860–1900) and painted many prominent figures in Europe and America. He drew on the characteristics of 18th-century ‘swagger’ portraits by artists such as Thomas Gainsborough and Sir Joshua Reynolds but reinterpreted them for a new age. Six years after this portrait was painted, Daisy married Henry Howard, 19th Earl of Suffolk. She came to live in Britain at Charlton Park in Wiltshire. Daisy was one of many so-called ‘Dollar Princesses’ – American heiresses who married into the British aristocracy at a time when the United States was becoming a world power and American tycoons were amassing vast fortunes.
Later, the Dowager Countess personally acquired a group of paintings from the Howard family’s ancestral collection. On her death at the age of 89, the terms of Daisy’s will made it possible for the paintings to be given to the nation; today they are known as The Suffolk Collection.
Marguerite 'Daisy' Hyde Leiter (c.1879–1968), Later 19th Countess of Suffolk
oil on canvas
H 234 x W 123 cm
bequeathed by the Honourable Mary Howard, 1994