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Portrait of a Lady: The Maid of Honour
National Museum Wales, Cardiff
Richard Wilson (1713/14-1782)
Portrait of a Lady: The Maid of Honour
c.1748-50 (undated)
Oil on canvas
126.5 x 101.5 cm
49 13/16 x 39 15/16 in.
NMW A 67
P25
The sitter is shown three-quarter length and three-quarter face standing before a grey plain wall and to the left, the base of a pilaster. She rests her left arm on a ledge covered with green drapery descending from above. She is richly dressed with rows of pearls encircling her chest, looped to a blue bow at the centre. Fine buttons fasten her low-cut dress at the front and retain the sleeves at the elbows.
Brighton Art Gallery 1957, The Influence of Wales in Painting (36)
Reputedly bt from Wilson's last home at Colomendy in Denbighshire after the artist's death (see label 1); Private collection, Cranbrook, Kent; Spink & Sons London; purchased for the National Museum of Wales by private subscription, 18 March 1936
Unsigned; no inscription
Kate Lowry has noted:
The double layer of white ground with intermediate size is a commercially prepared priming typical of the period. The soft modelling of the face, leaving the pale grey underpaint exposed around the eyes and lips, is characteristic of Wilson's simple but effective use of paint. The composition is very similar to that of the three-quarter length portrait underlying P120A Llyn Peris and Dolbadarn Castle, National Museum of Wales. 18th centruy frame.
According to Constable [1] On the modern stretcher, parchment, in an eighteenth-century hand: The Maid of Honour / Lady in White Satin Dress / by Richard Wilson R.A. / Brought from his studio at Clomendy [sic] / where he died May 1782 - aged 69 / buried in Mold churchyard, near the / Clerk's house / Mr. M.H. Jones, Bryn-Hyfryd / Ruthin.
[2] On the frame in a ninteenth-century hand: The Maid of Honor / by / Richard Wilson R.A./ Bought at the sale of pictures belonging / to Mr Edward Jones / Hooton Grange.
Thought to represent either Wilson's only sister, who was attendant to Lady Sundon, a Lady of the Bedchamber to Queen Caroline or Miss Wynne of Leeswood, a cousin of Wilson's mother, whose portrait was recorded at Colomendy in November 1833 by the Revd. Evan Evans ('Ieuan Ial') in the monthly periodical Y Gwyliedydd.
This is relatively rare as an example of Wilson's female portraiture. Wilson's mastery of the contrasting textures, fabrics and surfaces is impressive.
Old Accession Number: 36.360
Old Registration Number: 447
WGC, pp. 129, 154-5, commentary under pl. 8c; repr. pl. 8b; Apollo, December 1956; Cardiff 1961, pp. 6-7
Relined. Kate Lowry has noted: Original canvas, simple weave linen, c.18 threads per sq. cm. Original turnovers removed at time of lining. Some old tears in original canvas visible in X-ray. Lined onto a slightly finer simple weave linen with animal glue adhesive. Pine stretcher, not original, probably dating from lining. Double layer of white ground is visible in cross-section with intermediate size layer. A grey underpaint layer is visible at some edges and in parts of the face. Body and dress of sitter quite solidly painted with some impasto in highlights. The background and hair more thinly painted. The fingers of her right hand and the line of her left arm have been altered slightly during painting and these changes are visible in the X-ray. Mature cracks present throughout. Vection cracks indicate a four member original stretcher. No drying cracks. All tears filled and retouched. These retouches now discoloured. Those in the pale tones are blanched. Retouches in background have darkened. Extensive retouches over the base of the pillar centre left and other minor retouches in green curtain at upper right.