Catherine Maria Fanshawe, stands out as one of the few lady etchers of her day to produce original etched work of her own design. Miss Fanshawe was a wealthy London socialite whose father had been part of the household entourage of King George III, and who lived at the prestigious address of Berkeley Square. She was renowned for her wit and imagination, and was noted as a gifted poet (some of her poems were published alongside those of Lord Byron) and as a talented amateur artist.
Little is known of C.M. Fanshawe's etchings aside from what we are told by The Gentleman's Magazine of April 1844: “Miss Catherine Fanshawe etched a few more than fourteen plates, but none were for sale, except one of a very aged woman, of which a considerable number were disposed of amongst her friends for the benefit of the person represented.” This portrait of Elizabeth Alexander, aged 104, is recorded to have been etched in May 1806.
It is extremely hard to date individual works by Miss C.M. Fanshawe as the artist herself gave no dates on any recorded etchings and there are wide discrepancies concerning her dates of birth and death. Shaw Sparrow gives her dates as 1765-1835, whilst the hand-written album in the British Museum states that she was in her 49th year when she died in April 1834. However, her earliest dated Sonnet was written in August 1789 and she was producing accomplished watercolour drawings by 1791! (Church records gives her age at the time of her death in 1834 as being 69 years of age).