Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait miniature of a Lady, wearing bolero edged with white fur and lilac dress trimmed with jewels, her upswept hair decorated with an ostrich feather and pearls, an embroidered veil falling at her back and pinned at her corsage 1777

John Smart (1741-1811)

Portrait miniature of a Lady, wearing bolero edged with white fur and lilac dress trimmed with jewels, her upswept hair decorated with an ostrich feather and pearls, an embroidered veil falling at her back and pinned at her corsage, John Smart
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Watercolour on ivory
Oval, 57mm (2 ¼ in.) high
 
Provenance:
Phillips; London, 6 November 1989, lot.261, as ‘A Lady’; Karin Henninger-Tavcar, 2002, as ‘Anne Townshend’; Private Collection, Germany.
This is one of the finest examples of Smart’s work from the 1770s and the way it is confidently and clearly signed ‘J.Smart’ suggests it may have been a work intended for public display.

The masterful handling of such a wide variety of different textures suggests that this was a real showpiece for the artist – a demonstration of his all-round capabilities at capturing and harmonising the qualities of different materials. Frustratingly however, the descriptions of Smart’s exhibited works are too vague to draw parallels with this example, and were often simply listed as ‘portrait of a lady’ or similar.

In 1777, the year this work was painted, Smart climbed higher up the social ladder when he was elected vice-president of the Incorporated Society of Artists and in the same year, presumably to mark his new appointment, a silver medal was struck bearing his portrait.

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