Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait miniature of Lucken (Lucy) Gordon-Cuming-Skene, early 1790s 

Richard Cosway RA (1742-1821)

Portrait miniature of Lucken (Lucy) Gordon-Cuming-Skene, early 1790s, Richard Cosway
Watercolour on ivory
18th Century
Oval, 45mm, (1 ¾ ins.) high.
Private collection, UK
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This sensitive portrait by Richard Cosway was almost certainly painted in 1783 to commemorate the sitter’s marriage to General John Gordon-Cuming-Skene.

The sitter is shown wearing exceptionally fine dress decorated with gold embroidery and hanging strings of pearls and her hair, which is positioned in quite an idiosyncratic way for this period, hangs at her shoulders and is held in place by a thin blue ribbon at the top.

Cosway’s talent for romanticising his subject is seen quite clearly in this work, with the red lips contrasting strikingly with the deep blue eyes, which in turn draws parallels with the blue sky background. This ability to flatter and bestow unprecedented levels of glamour on his subjects earnt Cosway a considerable reputation and helped solidify his position as one of the most important English portrait miniatures painters of the eighteenth century.

Relatively little biographical information can be gleaned on the life of this sitter, although we know that she was born in Scotland and was the daughter of Sir Hew Crawford, 2nd Baron Pollok of Jordanhill, and in 1783, at the age of fifteen, she married General Gordon-Cuming-Skene.
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