Romney transformed Emma into Circe, Joan of Arc, Calypso, the Magdalene and Titania. He also painted her in more humble form in "The Spinstress," and in everyday garb, wearing a straw hat and a pout, or sporting morning dress and a dreamy expression.
Unfortunately, the halcyon days didn’t last. After Lord Nelson’s death, Emma died, a lonely alcoholic, while Romney grew increasingly careless about his work, leaving commissioned portraits unfinished. "He didn’t always produce the goods and he disappointed a number of clients," says Peltz. "He lost the will to follow through."
Indeed, at the end of the exhibition is Romney’s self-portrait: The artist is slumped, staring, defensive, his lip slightly curled. A harbinger, perhaps, of the years of obscurity that awaited him.