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Maria Spilsbury Taylor (1776-1820) lived and worked in London and Ireland and was patronized by the Prince Regent. A painter of portraits, genre scenes, biblical subjects and large crowd compositions - an unusual feature in women's art of this period - she is represented in major museums and art galleries as well as in numerous private collections. Her work, hitherto considered on a purely decorative level, merits closer attention. For the first time, this volume argues the relevance of Spilsbury's religious background, and in particular her evangelical and Moravian connections, to the interpretation of her art and examines her pervasive, and often inovert references to the Bible, hymnody and religious writing. The art that emerges is distinctly Protestant and evangelical, offering a vivid illustration of the mood of patriotic, Protestant fervour that characterized the quarter century succeeding the French revolution. This focus may be situated in the general context of increasing interest in the religious faith of historical actors - men and women - in the eighteenth century, and in the related contexts of growing acknowledgement of a religious aspect to "enlightenment" art, as well as investigations into Protestant culture in Ireland. The book is extensively illustrated and contains a list of all of Spilsbury's known works.
Charlotte Yeldham is an independent scholar based in the UK.