Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of Mrs Elizabeth Boyd of Castlelaw 1750

Philip Mercier 

Portrait of Mrs Elizabeth Boyd of Castlelaw, Philip Mercier
Oil on canvas
18th Century
49 x 39 1/4 inches 124.5 x 99.7 cm
With Spink, London, No. K2/389, 1972
Octagon, Vol.IX n.1. Spring 1972 (advertisement) Connoisseur, Vol.179, n.120. John Ingamells and Robert Raines A Catalogue of the Drawings, Paintings and Etchings of Philip Mercier Walpole Society vol. XLVI 1978 p.7 cat. 11 p.16
The career of Philip Mercier involved, as did that of many painters, no small degree of travel between various fashionable cities in order to maintain a flow of patronage. Mercier would seem to have made the acquaintance of Frederick Prince of Wales during his time in Hanover. When the Prince came to England in 1728 he must have already been impressed by Mercier's talents, and in the following year he was appointed Frederick's Principal Painter.

Mercier introduced much of the vivacity and the colouring of the French rococo into British portraiture at this date. He was an admirer of -and dealer in the works of Watteau- and paintings such as The Schutz Family, 1725 (London, Tate Gallery) and Frederick Prince of Wales and his Sisters 1733 (example National Portrait Gallery) show the burgeoning rococo taste that can also be detected in the near-contemporary works of Francis Hayman.
He was unable, however, to maintain a sufficient London practice, and the latter part of his career -although by no means arid, as was once suggested- was certainly peripatetic. In 1747 Mercier went to Ireland, and two years later he travelled to York. From there he went on to Edinburgh, where he painted a large number of Scottish sitters, including the present Elizabeth Boyd, who came with her husband from Castlelaw just outside Edinburgh.
This painting of a mother and child represents the extraordinary creation of a rococo madonna. The beautiful, porcelain draperies and meticulously-executed flowers create the carefree mood of the typical rococo portrait, but despite the contemporary costume the pose of the whole derives from Italian religious art. In a similar contrast, although Mrs Boyd has been placed before a foliage-twined rock -part of the mise en scene of portraiture going back to Van Dyck and beyond- the further landscape would appear to be a quite factual piece of lowland Scotland.
Philip Mould Ltd, 18-19 Pall Mall, London, SW1Y 5LU.Copyright Philip Mould Ltd.