The Stories Behind the Most Hideous Women in New York City

| January 4, 2013




Wealthy New York women in the 1700s were either particularly hideous or they hired their enemies to paint their portraits.

Conversely, today’s ridiculous lady shakers simply slick their faces with greasepaint, go to a fashion show, and sit next to Vogue‘s editor-in-chief Anna Wintour.  While not all of us get invited to such sartorial extravaganzas to witness the absurd, a peak inside Manhattan’s most popular museums reveals a treasure trove of painterly travesties.



1.Portrait of a Lady
  Artist: Lawrence Kilbrun
   (On display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art)

If this woman looks familiar to you then at some point in your life, you must have gagged up a mouthful of luncheon meat.

Celebrated portraitist, Lawrence Kilbrun was renowned in New York City in the late 1700s for his ability to paint strikingly accurate renderings of his subjects. That’s a very nice way of saying that it’s not the artist’s fault that this “lady” is a dead-ringer for Gene Wilder.

On the subject’s right wrist is a bracelet featuring a portrait of a man, which is simply this little tart’s way of showing off that she actually got laid at some point.



 2. Mrs. William Walton
      Artist: John Wollaston
      (On display at the New York Historical Society)

This striking society dame, born Cornelia Beekman, married prosperous merchant William Walton and lived in one of New York City’s most imposing mansions, Walton House, which once stood at 328 Pearl Street.

Elbow Face’s choice of headgear instinctively makes us reach for our lunch ticket and ask for a second scoop of mashed potatoes.



 3. Sarra de Peyster
    Artist: Preferred to Remain Anonymous. Can you blame him?
    (On display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art)

The Metropolitan Museum of Art received this so-called “gift” in 1961 from two people who probably just got tired of screaming, “Holy fuck, what is that?” every five minutes. If this is a gift then we should hand-script a thank you note to Eastern Europe for giving us bed bugs and rickets.

This child was two and a half years old when her parents commissioned her portrait in 1631 and already this nasty creature looked like an eighty-year-old alcoholic.

Sarra’s bucket of a head so traumatized the poor bastard who had to paint her that he didn’t even sign his name.

We feel sorry for the tulip



 4. Portrait of an Unidentified Woman
      Artist: Unknown
      (On display at the New York Historical Society)

Ladies and gentlemen: John Lovitz.

This portrait has been swirling in controversy and churning stomachs since it was painted by an unattributed artist in the early eighteenth century.

For years, it was believed that this image is that of the cross-dressing governor of New York and New Jersey (1702-1708) Mr. Edward Hyde, known also by his formal title Viscount Cornbury (bequeathed by his cousin Queen Anne).

The good governor’s penchant for panties was not just a fetish for behind parlor doors; rather Hyde strolled en plein air for all the commoners to gag at his rouged visage — he even opened the states’ assemblies and received visitors while wasp-waist’d tightly in his wife’s dresses.

During his reign, Governor Hyde was much loathed and scoffed at by those under his rule as “half-witted,” and as a result was the butt of many jokes.

Based on the aforementioned history of the governor’s flamboyance, scholars for centuries concluded this was indeed a portrait, or perhaps a satire, of Governor Hyde.

Or so it would seem. Recent research, however, has proven the portrait’s previous provenance to be apocryphal.

It is now assumed that this person is not the aforementioned frilly fop; rather, this is a portrait of a mystery woman with an enormous head (topped with a coaster) that only a mother could love — from a great distance. Her fetching five o’clock shadow can possibly be attributed to her creepy little bird hands’ inability to get a smooth shave.



5. Mrs. John Waddell
     Artist: John Wollaston
     (Shamelessly on display at the New York Historical Society)

And now this is happening. Mary, Mother of God, make this stop.

On November 30, 1736 in New York City, Captain John Waddell had the misfortune to marry this comely creature (that called itself Ann Kirten). Mr. Waddell, a wealthy merchantman, built a ship on New York’s East River and christened it Dover, after his hometown in England, which is how Dover Street in South Street Seaport earned its name.

When the captain died, his handsome bride became one of the richest women in the provinces, which is a good thing because Christ knows she must’ve needed plenty of pork chops to tie around her neck just for dogs to look at her. Her come-hither stare (with her one good eye), mouthful of vomit, and strapped-down love chest, set the tone for what appears to be some sort of sick striptease as this nasty slut removes her left glove. Disgusting.



Category: Featured, Gawk

Comments (6)

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  1. Stephanie Wilkins says:

    Sweet buttered Moses, I nearly spit out water at “John Lovett”. For reals. Excellent, as always!

  2. Buck Jones says:

    This is crazy …. where do you find this stuff?
    I will keep an eye out for something similar here in Paris.

  3. Phantom Fire says:

    I wonder why it is that we judge the women here and not the crappy artists? Perhaps they weren’t beautiful by todays standards, however neither were the men “handsome” using those standards as well.
    The painters are clearly crap however.

  4. Cather9ne Lake says:

    What makes you think women were less beautiful then? There are many women in places of ‘power’ (or attention, if you will) who are not pretty (think, Queen Elizabeth, or that Versace sister) but we still see them around. Really, beauty, not only is in the eye of the beholder, but is also not are not the majority of the population; we just have more focus on the miniority due to tv, cinema, and internet. Just look at the people around you on the subway, in Target, or even in Saks, they may be well dressed, but not necessarily well-featured…

    • Christina D'Angelo says:

      Hi Catherine. I don’t think that at all. I said that women in the “1700s were either particularly hideous or they hired their enemies to paint their portraits.” A beautiful women who was painted by her enemy would possibly not appear beautiful. And with your use of “attention,” you asked if I would, and I would. You’ve got to admit though — these are some doozies. Mrs. Waddell is my personal favorite.

  5. Teresa says:

    Christina, I just stumbled across this article – maybe someone shared it on facebook? Not sure how I found you, but I’d like to THANK YOU for your excellent observations, your intuitive interpretations and your amazing sense of humor! Hope some smart person starts publishing your art critiques. Do you focus primarily on art as the main topic for your satirical skills, or could I enjoy your observations on other topics, too? If so, where would I find more of your stuff? ROTFL