Sir Joshua Reynolds (artist)|
British, 1723 - 1792
Lady Caroline Howard, 1778
oil on canvas
overall: 143 x 113 cm (56 5/16 x 44 1/2 in.) framed: 167.3 x 138.7 cm (65 7/8 x 54 5/8 in.)
Andrew W. Mellon Collection
Object 7 of 8
Reynolds' charming portrait of this seven-year-old aristocrat plucking a rosebud was commissioned by her father, the 5th Earl of Carlisle, who wrote that she was "always a great favourite" in spite of her headstrong character. Lady Caroline wears a cape and mittens to protect her peaches-and-cream complexion from the sunlight.
Whether the artist or the family chose the child's pose is unknown, but the act of sitting or kneeling upon the ground would have been immediately recognized by their contemporaries as a sign of unaffected simplicity. One newspaper critic, however, entirely missed the point, stating that "she seems to be curtseying to the Rose-Bush." As emblems of Venus, the goddess of love, the roses may allude to the promise of Lady Caroline's beauty and grace as an adult. Moreover, in reference to her youth, the flowers in this classical urn are in bud.
Lady Caroline wed at eighteen, and after her husband became the 1st Earl of Cawdor, this canvas was inscribed at bottom right with her maiden and married titles. (She, incidentally, was the niece of the mother depicted in Reynolds' Lady Elizabeth Delmé and Her Children.) Following its exhibition at London's Royal Academy in 1779, Lady Caroline Howard hung in Yorkshire's Castle Howard, one of the largest country houses in England.
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