Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of a girl with a cat, 1665 - 70 1680c.

Mary Beale (1633-99)

Portrait of a girl with a cat, 1665 - 70, Mary Beale
Oil on vellum
17th Century
5 x 3 inches 12.7 x 9.5 cm
This miniature painting in oil is a significantly early example of informal domestic portraiture in seventeenth-century England. Standing next to a table covered with an oriental carpet, the child is portrayed holding one of the tabby-cat's legs. In gesture and pose it is unusually free for contemporary British conventions in portraiture and in fact closer to Dutch genre scenes and figure studies; its spontaneity also presages natural child portraiture of the late eighteenth-century.

The inclusion of the cat is highly unusual. Depictions of cats are more common in book and fable illustrations by artists such as Cleyn and Barlow, which owe much to Dutch genre pictures.
Philip Mould Ltd, 18-19 Pall Mall, London, SW1Y 5LU.Copyright Philip Mould Ltd.