The Muses for a modern Britain are unveiled

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The Independent Online
In the late 18th century, Richard Samuel chose nine Muses of the day - all self-confessed blue stockings, then a term of praise - to pose for The Nine Living Muses of Great Britain. Now, using electronic wizardry, the painting has been updated for the Nineties.

Step forward Emma Sergeant, pre-eminent portrait artist; the Marchioness of Worcester, the environmental activist who marched to protest against the Newbury bypass; Mary King, the three-day-eventer who has won four major international titles; and Baroness Blackstone, the Labour life peer and master of Birkbeck College.

Step forward also Darcey Bussell, ballerina; Vivienne Westwood, fashion designer; Evelyn Glennie, the woman who put percussion back on the map; Sarah Hervey-Bathurst, who has restored Herefordshire's Eastnor Castle to its glory; and Emma Kirkby, the soprano who has captivated audiences for 20 years.

They were chosen as our modern muses by Country Life after its editor, Clive Aslet, noticed the original belonging to the National Portrait Gallery. All nine women agreed to be photographed in 18th-century costume - except for Westwood, who sported one of her own creations.

Sandy Mitchell, deputy editor, said the new version showed women achievers who had often not received due recognition.

The magazine says Britain excels at modern art, auctioneering, exploring and theatre - London's West End has twice the number of theatres of Broadway; the armed forces and inventions - Britain has won 61 Nobel prizes compared with Japan's four; gardens, the City, broadcasting, field sports and public school education.

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