Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait miniature of a Lady, wearing green coat with fur trim, white dress trimmed with gold, upswept curling brown hair decorated with white gauze, 1776 

John Smart (1741-1811)

Portrait miniature of a Lady, wearing green coat with fur trim, white dress trimmed with gold, upswept curling brown hair decorated with white gauze, 1776, John Smart
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Watercolour on ivory
18th Century
Oval, 40 mm. (1 9/16 in.) high
 
Provenance:
Edward Grosvenor Paine (1911-1989), by whom sold; Christieís, London, 28 October 1980, lot 108; Karin Henninger-Tavcar, by 1990; Private collection, Germany, until 2014
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During the mid-1770s, when the present work was painted, Smart had fully established himself as a key figure amongst the circle of portrait painters working in London. Although dealing with the deflating issue of the failing Incorporated Society of Artists, of which Smart was a prominent member, this period seems to have been highly productive for Smart and some of his most enigmatic works were painted at this phase of his career.

The present work is a revealing testament to Smartís capabilities when presented with a young and engaging sitter. Although her identity is at present unknown, the young lady would have been not much older than Smartís daughter Anna Maria when she sat for this portrait. Her youthful glow is echoed in her rosy cheeks and her expression, glancing sideways as if caught mid-motion, evokes confident determination.

Intriguingly, this composition bears a striking resemblance to a portrait by Smart of Miss Isobel Page (also painted in 1776), which was, until recently, in the collection of the late Valerie Eliot. Although facing opposite directions, the colouring, style of dress and basic hair design with a single falling ringlet onto the shoulder is the same, which reaffirms the suggestion that Smart developed and reused a number of preferred poses.
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