Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait miniature of a Lady of the Darrell family, possibly Clarissa Darrell (d.1812), wearing a pink dress with high frilled white collar, her powdered hair worn up with falling ringlets and decorated with a white ribbon, 1785 

John Smart (1741-1811)

Portrait miniature of a Lady of the Darrell family, possibly Clarissa Darrell (d.1812), wearing a pink dress with high frilled white collar, her powdered hair worn up with falling ringlets and decorated with a white ribbon, 1785, John Smart
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Watercolour on ivory
18th Century
Oval, 1 5/8 in (42 mm) high
 
Provenance:
Christie’s, London, 19 June 1973, Lot 125 (sold as Lady Isabella Darrel); Alvin J. Huss Esq. of Evanston, Illinois by whom sold; Sotheby’s, London, 4 December 1985, Lot 44 (sold as A Young Lady); Christie’s, London, 23 October 1989, Lot.128; Karin Henninger-Tavcar by 1993; Private Collection, Germany.
Smart appears to have painted the present sitter twice; firstly in 1784 [previously with Philip Mould & Co] and secondly, as seen here, in 1785 just prior to his departure to India.

The two portraits vary slightly in the costume and hair design and in the earlier portrait, for example, the pink dress is slashed to reveal white beneath, and the sitter is also shown with a white ostrich feather in her hair as opposed to the ribbon seen here.

The sitter has traditionally been identified as a lady from the Darrell family and probably depicts Clarissa Darrell (d.1812), eldest daughter of Sir Lionel Darrell, 1st Baronet of Ancaster House, Surrey (1742-1803), who was Chairman of the Court of Directors of the East India Company.

Given that the Darrell sisters’ father held a senior position in the East India Company, it is perhaps hardly surprising that in 1785 - the year this work was painted, Smart was granted permission to travel to India.

An interesting comparison can also be made with a portrait by Smart of the Hon. Louisa Pitt (later Beckford (1754-1791)) dated 1782, in which Smart used the same composition and attire as in the present work, albeit with Pitt wearing a blue dress and without the high lace collar - which must, therefore, have been a recent fashion worth including when Darrell sat for the present portrait three years later.
Philip Mould Ltd, 18-19 Pall Mall, London, SW1Y 5LU.Copyright Philip Mould Ltd.