London's first 'It girl', Kitty Fisher
*Accompanies episode 46 of Ladies Who London podcast.
How does one of London's most up and coming women make a media splash in the mid 1700s? Well, if you are the Georgian courtesan Kitty Fisher, you have
a few tricks up your knickerbockers.
Kitty Fisher came from what was described as a "low and mean" birth, and catapulted herself into Georgian society as a courtesan and harlot to some of the richest and most powerful men in the country.
She used a very clever system of slight scandal and friendships with eminent artists to solidify her place in the shining stars of the time, which gave her both
fame, but widespread criticism of her trade. One of her first potential PR stunts in 1759 -
reports are mixed as to whether or not it was a staged or genuine occurrence - was her falling from her horse in St James park, revealing to all and sundry that she was going commando!
It seems that she was initially shocked, before launching into wild laughter, then grabbing a passing sedan chair and flamboyantly departing, leaving a stunned group of Londoners in her wake! As you might imagine, this made waves in the the press, with this image on the right appearing in publications, talking about her legs akimbo fall.
Sensing an opportunity to capitalise on this press, she teamed up shortly after with the artist Joshua Reynolds, who painted this increasingly famous woman. She was rapidly becoming the talk of the town, with people copying her hair, her fashion, and her look.
Reynolds even depicted her as Cleopatra (left), dissolving a pearl into a goblet of wine to attract Marc Anthony. He went on to paint her a number of other times throughout her life, and she used these portraits to increase her reputation further yet.
Another portrait done by Nathaniel Hone was even more clever - he includes a little image of a kitten fishing for goldfish in the corner, but there is something even more subtle. Take a look at the reflection in the bowl. You'll see a window reflected back, with the outlines of onlookers, gawping through the windows at the now incredibly famous Kitty.
For Kitty's full story, and more lighthearted chats about her life and legacy, check out episode 46 of Ladies Who London podcast;
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