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Portrait of a Lady (Miss Mary Jenkins?)
National Museum Wales, Cardiff
Richard Wilson (1713/14-1782)
Portrait of a Lady (Miss Mary Jenkins?)
c.1750 (undated)
Oil on canvas
127.8 x 101.7 cm
50 5/16 x 40 1/16 in.
P219
The sitter is shown three-quarter length, seated and wearing a low-cut black dress decorated with pink ribbons and looped srings of pearls. She holds a sprig of white flowers in her proper left hand.
By descent in the sitter's family; Anon sale, Sotheby's London, 10 April 1991 (91); Anon sale, Christie's London, 8 June 2006 (26); bought at auction by the previous owner, May 2012; purchased by Amgueddfa Cymru National Museum Wales with assistance from the Art Fund, 2017.
Unsigned; no inscription
[1] Sale stencil, black ink upper right corner of stretcher: WIS 92
[2] Chalk inscription on horizontal cross member of stretcher: 26th JUNE 06
The sitter was believed by a former owner to be Miss Mary Jenkins (1731-1790), the eldest daughter of William Jenkins of Priston Manor, Somerset, and his wife, Elizabeth. She is perhaps one of 'the two Miss Jenkins commissioned by Mr Harris' [an official in the navy office] referred to in a letter from the artist's sister to Admiral Smith of 7 November 1750 (Elizabeth Wilson 1750).
Pendant: Portrait of a Lady, probably Miss Elizabeth Jenkins (1736-1810), sold Sotheby's London, 10 April 1991 (90); location unknown
The vented sleeves of the sitter's dress are in the 'Van Dyck' style which, together with the pink bows, pearls and ermine collar, denote her as a woman of fashion. The sprig of white blossom in her proper left hand may be choisya (orange blossom). If so it is possible that the portrait may be connected with the sitter's marriage - a state which the flower was often used to symbolise.
Elizabeth Wilson 1750; WGC, pp. 19, 20 and 63 [?]
The white flowers in the sitter's hand are not easy to identify but do not seem to be snowdrops. There are patterned vertical panels to the right and left sides of the picture behind the sitter's head.
Kate Lowry has noted: Examined off the wall but fitted in a carved gilt frame bought with the painting by the present owner. The frame is probably contemporary with the painting. Frame reverse has no inscription or labels, but possibly a faint number on top member. Original support is simple weave medium weight linen. Original turnovers removed at time of relining. Cusping of canvas weave down edges indicates that nothing more of the original canvas has been lost. Glue lined onto a finer machine-wove linen canvas and attached to stretcher through lining turnovers. Stretcher dates from lining, possibly early 20th century. Stretcher consists of 7 members with square mortice joints and provision for keying out.The canvas has a grey ground preparation which is visible faintly in the background where paint is thin and also around the eyes and mouth of the sitter. The style of the portrait head and the composition are very like other portraits accepted as or known to be by Wilson. The seat upon which the subject sits is very similar in style and colour to that on which the two princes sit in P24 and P24A, Wilson's group portraits of Princes George and Edward with their Tutor, Dr Ayscough (Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection, New Haven and National Portrait Gallery, London). A pentiment at lower right shows that the decorative scroll carving of the seat's arm has been adjusted by the artist. The canvas support has suffered two large tears, one at upper left edge and the other at the centre of the top edge and these were probably the reason for the relining. There was also a more recent tear through the original and lining canvases which has been repaired and restored by Kate Woodgate-Jones since the work came into the present owner's possession. All of these damages can be seen in normal and raking light at the front and reverse. Retouching to these three damages is visible under UV light. There is also some retouching throughout the sitter's black dress and especially around the sitter's hands. The pink bows and her little bunch of white flowers are un-retouched. There is retouching to a diagonal mature crack across the sitter's chest. Retouching has been carried out around the edges of the sitter's face to hide the join with her hair and also around her chin. Otherwise the paint of the face is relatively untouched and not worn.
11/07/2017