Curran, Amelia (1775–1847), artist, was born in Redmond's Hill, Dublin, eldest child of John Philpot Curran (qv), orator, lawyer, and parliamentarian, and Sarah Curran (née Creagh), both of Newmarket, Co. Cork. Her artistic abilities were noticed early in childhood, though it is not known whether she received any formal training. Her family life was blighted initially by the accidental death (1792) of her sister Gertrude and the subsequent depression of her father, and later by the acrimonious breakup of her parents' marriage after her mother's relationship with a clergyman named Sandys. After her mother's departure she took over the running of the family home. The well publicised romance between her sister Sarah (qv) and Robert Emmet (qv) led to further strain. She left Ireland after the death of her father (1817), settling in Rome in 1818. There she lived independently and alone on the £50 a year left to her by her father, and on the modest income she made by producing society portraits and copies of the Old Masters. She spoke fluent Italian and was well suited to the European lifestyle.
In April 1819 she became reacquainted with Percy Bysshe Shelley and his family, then living in Rome. She had been familiar with both Mary Shelley and Claire Clairmont for some years, having visited William Godwin's home in Skinner Row, London, with her father, and probably first met Shelley himself during his Dublin expedition (1812), when he visited the Curran household. Her friendship with the Shelleys developed rapidly. They appear to have been delighted by her wit and political radicalism, and met her almost daily. The strength of their attachment is evident from Mary Shelley's correspondence, dated 11 May 1819: ‘we did not know a creature in Rome, and we began to long for the country – but since we have met with an old friend (Miss Curran), and that has induced us to stay longer’ (Bennett, 97), and their decision to move into a house beside hers on Via Sestina. She began portraits of all of them (Shelley sat for her on 7 and 8 May); however, these remained unfinished as the Shelleys left Rome soon after the death of their son William in June 1819. Maintaining contact with Curran, they commissioned her to produce a memorial for his grave in Rome, and later to produce the frontispiece for The Cenci (1820), based on Guido Reni's portrait of Beatrice Cenci.
Her later years appear to have been spent for the most part in Italy, though she is known to have visited the widowed Mary Shelley in London in the autumn of 1829. While she continued to mix with the expatriate community (Lady Morgan (qv), who met her in Rome in 1820, described her as ‘full of talent and intellect, pleasant, interesting, and original’ (Kingston Stocking, 108)), she appears to have led an increasingly secluded life. After her move to Naples (1821), where she converted to catholicism, she was visited by her father's old associate Richard Robert Madden (qv), who spoke of her poor health and depression. Madden wrote of her sitting in a darkened drawing room for ‘many days and at times even weeks together’ yet also described her as ‘mild, gentle, and amiable, nothwithstanding these fits of melancholy’ (Strickland, 250). She evidently resettled in Rome, where she died in 1847. Her funeral oration was delivered by John Henry Newman (qv). She was buried in the Irish Franciscan Collegiate Church of St Isidro's, Rome, where her friend Valentine, Lord Cloncurry (qv), who referred with enthusiasm to her talents as an artist, writer, and musician, had a sculpted tablet, executed by John Hogan (qv), placed in her memory.
Curran is best known for her portrait of Shelley. After his death in 1822 she agreed to Mary Shelley's appeals to send her the portrait, though she was far from happy with the work and admitted to Mary that she had considered burning it. Exhibited in 1868, it remained in the Shelley family till 1898, when it was acquired by the National Portrait Gallery, London. Her portrait of Clairmont, described as ‘an excellent likeness’ by Mary Shelley (Bennett, 310) but disliked by the sitter, is in City of Nottingham Museums, Newstead collections.