Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of a young girl, c. 1681 1681c.

Mary Beale (1633-99)

Portrait of a young girl, c. 1681, Mary Beale
Oil on canvas
17th Century
30 x 25 inches 76.2 x 63.5 cm
Hugh Whitefield Esq., Nailsea Court, Nailsea, Somerset.
Elizabeth Walsh & Richard Jeffree, The Excellent Mrs Mary Beale, Exh. cat., 1975, p.32 & p.69. Charles Beale records in his notebook entries for 1681 at least four pictures in side face of the thirty or so that his wife painted for her Study & Improvement. -1 One was of Keaty Sands and three were of her studio assistant, Keaty Trioche, and may be identifiable with an unfinished study of a Young Girl in Profile (Tate Gallery). 2 Other sitters in the studies listed by Charles include her sons, Charles and Bartholomew, and Alice Woodforde, the daughter of the Beale''s close friend, the poet and divine, Samuel Woodforde (1636-1701), who lived with the Beales throughout most of her childhood
Bristol, West Country Treasures, 1967. Bath, The Age of Innocence, 1969-70, No. 17. London, Geffrye Museum, 13 October-21 December 1975 & Eastbourne, Towner Art Gallery, 10 January -21 February 1976, The Excellent Mrs Mary Beale, No.23.
This painting is a carefully observed but informal study, in which conventional portrayal is abandoned in favour of more natural and experimental sideways pose. In this respect it should viewed more akin to life drawings in paint, than formal portraiture. The immediacy of impact is further enhanced by the plain backgrounds against which the outline of the face is crisply described.

There appears to be a discrepancy between the treatment of the drapery and the head. Although the costume seems to be contemporary with the rest of the painting it is less definite in handling and this raises the possibility that the sketch may have been finished off. If this is the case, then it provides the intriguing possibility of studio collaboration.

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