Portrait of Lady Lewis by Edward Burne-Jones, 1881
Lady Elizabeth Lewis, the second wife of the eminent solicitor George Lewis, was one of the greatest hostesses of her day. A woman of good looks, good plays, good pictures and, above all, good music, she entertained many famous and talented dinner guests in her home in Portland Place, including Burne-Jones, Whistler, Sargent, Henry James and Oscar Wilde. Burne-Jones became a close friend, often turning to Elizabeth for her opinion on practical matters and her husband George for legal advice.
The two families often stayed together in the Lewis’s country house, here, Burne-Jones entertained friends with his whimsical drawings and caricatures. Elizabeth Lewis was very much town-bred and the summers that she spent there were her first tastes of country life. Insects and creepy crawlies intimidated her and naturally, Burrie-Jones, with his wicked sense of humour, found this an extreme source of amusement. He depicts his hostess perched on a chair, peering fearfully down at a tiny lizard.