Orpen’s portrait of rags-to-riches Countess goes on sale with £40,000 pricetag
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Orpen’s portrait of rags-to-riches Countess goes on sale with £40,000 pricetag

SIR William Orpen’s oil portrait of the Countess of Dudley will be sold in March at an auctioneers in Essex, with a price tag of £30,000-40,000.  

The subject of the painting is Bradford-born Gertrude Millar, who became a star of the stage in the late 1800s and went on to become one of most photographed women of the Edwardian era.

In 1902, she married composer Lionel Monckton, who wrote a number of hit songs for her.

Later Millar caused scandal when gossip columns caught wind of the popular showgirl’s rumored affair with the Duke of Westminster, who was also married.

According to rumour it took the intervention of King George V and Queen Mary to make the Duke stay with his wife.

Millar’s next husband was  the wealthy Earl of Dudley, William Humble Ward, who had been Lord Lieutenant of Ireland from 1902-05.

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The couple spent most of their married life in Le Touquet in France, where author P.G. Wodehouse was a neighbour and friend.

Orpen met the Earl when he stayed with him at Screeb House, County Galway and this encounter almost certainly led to the commissioning of this portrait in the mid to late 1920s.

The Countess of Dudley later died at her home in Chiddingfold in 1952 aged 73.

William Orpen was born in Stillorgan, Co. Dublin but worked mainly in London and is regarded as one of Ireland’s pre-eminent portrait painters.

Auctioneer Guy Schooling, who will be offering the picture for sale on March 10 at Sworders of Stansted Mountfichet  said: “As well as being an intriguing picture of one of the most fascinating and photographed women of the age, it is a fine portrait by one of the most talented artists ever to come out of Ireland.”