Her legs were, according to a friend, “the prettiest that ever stepped into a punt or danced a foxtrot”, and her beauty is said to have enraptured Sir Winston Churchill. Now it has been discovered that a portrait of Lady Castlerosse, great-aunt of the models Cara and Poppy Delevingne, features those celebrated limbs twice. Sir John Lavery’s 1938 oil painting The Viscountess Castlerosse, Palm Springs, depicts the socialite dangling them over a diving board, with another figure seated at the side with legs crossed.
That second pair had been thought to belong to either a Hollywood director or her brother, Edward Delevingne. However, Kenneth McConkey, emeritus professor of art history at Northumbria University and a biographer of the artist, found a photograph of Castlerosse in the Lavery family collection that, he said, proved they were hers too. “Lavery was clearly aware of the universal admiration for the famous Castlerosse limbs and secretly pays his own tribute, by painting them not once, but twice,” said McConkey.