Overview

Reynolds sought to elevate British painting, including portraiture, to the lofty realms of classical expression. After traveling to Rome, Florence, Bologna, and Venice, Reynolds became the first president of the Royal Academy, which had been founded in 1768. Through his teaching at the Academy and the publication of his annual lectures, the Discourses, he urged the adoption of grand classical values and the study of Greek and Roman sculpture and Renaissance painting.

In Lady Delmé, Reynolds created an image of idealized, majestic feminine grace that has many precedents in Renaissance art. The pyramidal composition of the sitters, Lady Delmé's encircling arms and quiet manner, and the regal folds of the deep-rose drapery across her knees are reminiscent of Madonna and Child compositions by Raphael.

The rich, warm colors of the informal landscape and the beautifully controlled movement of light into the deep reaches of the background owe much to Titian. Finally, Reynolds' sensitive use of everyday, intimate details prevents the portrait from becoming remote and unapproachable. The tenderness with which Lady Delmé holds her two sons, the nuances of personality in the three faces, the realistic costumes of the children, and the attentive posture of the Skye terrier give the painting a worldly, familiar context.

Inscription

Marks and Labels

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Provenance

Painted for the sitter's husband, Peter Delmé [1748-1789], Titchfield Abbey, Hampshire; by descent to Seymour Robert Delmé, Cams Hall, Hampshire. Charles J. Wertheimer [d. 1911], London.[1] (Christie, Manson & Wood, London); purchased c. 1900-1901[2] by J. Pierpont Morgan, Sr. [1837-1913], New York; bequeathed to his daughter, Mrs. Robert L. Satterlee [d. 1946], who owned it until c. 1930. (Duveen Brothers, Inc., London and New York); sold 15 December 1936 to The A.W. Mellon Educational and Charitable Trust, Pittsburgh;[3] gift 1937 to NGA.

Exhibition History

1895
Works by the Old Masters, and by Deceased Masters of the British School, Winter Exhibition, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1895, no. 130.
1899
Loan Collection of Pictures and Drawings by J.M.W. Turner, R.A. and of a Selection of Pictures by Some of His Contemporaries, Corporation of London Art Gallery, 1899, no. 170.
1908
Aedlre Engelsky Künst, Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen, 1908, no. 29, repro.
1908
Aelterer Englischer Kunst, Königliche Akademie der Künste, Berlin, 1908, no. 68 (souvenir volume, 73, repro.).
1928
Fifteen Masters of the Eighteenth Century, Jacques Seligmann & Co., New York, 1928, no. 13.
1937
Sir Joshua Reynolds, Sir Philip Sassoon's, 45 Park Lane, London, 1937, no. 26 (souvenir, repro. 56).

Bibliography

1865
Leslie, Charles Robert and Tom Taylor. Life and Times of Sir Joshua Reynolds. 2 vols. London, 1865: 2:202, 302.
1899
Graves, Algernon and William Vine Cronin. A History of the Works of Sir Joshua Reynolds. 4 vols. London, 1899-1901: 1:241; 4:.
1900
Armstrong, Sir Walter. Sir Joshua Reynolds. London, 1900: 202.
1907
Roberts, William. Pictures in the Collection of J. Pierpont Morgan at Prince's Gate & Dover House, London: English School. London, 1907: unpaginated.
1941
Duveen Brothers. Duveen Pictures in Public Collections of America. New York, 1941: no. 264, repro., as Lady Betty Delmé and Children.
1941
Preliminary Catalogue of Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1941: 167, no. 95.
1941
Waterhouse, Sir Ellis. Reynolds. London, 1941: 68, pl. 191.
1942
Book of Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1942: 241, repro. 17.
1949
Paintings and Sculpture from the Mellon Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1949 (reprinted 1953 and 1958): 106, repro.
1952
Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds., Great Paintings from the National Gallery of Art. New York, 1952: 134, color repro.
1960
Cooke, Hereward Lester. British Painting in the National Gallery of Art. Washington, D.C., 1960 (Booklet Number Eight in Ten Schools of Painting in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.): 12, color repro.
1963
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. New York, 1963 (reprinted 1964 in French, German, and Spanish): 319, repro.
1965
Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 113
1966
Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds. A Pageant of Painting from the National Gallery of Art. 2 vols. New York, 1966: 2:350, color repro.
1968
European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1968: 101, repro.
1975
European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 302, repro.
1975
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1975: no. 504, color repro.
1984
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 361, no. 502, color repro.
1985
European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 348, repro.
1992
Hayes, John. British Paintings of the Sixteenth through Nineteenth Centuries. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 1992: 213-215, repro. 214.
1992
National Gallery of Art, Washington. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 149, repro.
1999
Zuffi, Stefano and Francesca Castria, La peinture baroque. Translated from Italian by Silvia Bonucci and Claude Sophie Mazéas. Paris, 1999: 374, color repro.
2004
Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 278-279, no. 225, color repro.

Technical Summary


[1] A newspaper report dated 19 September 1789 stated that this and some other portraits "which for many years have been lodged in his infirmary" now "by the help of fresh varnish and a few vivifying touches from his pencil, again claim our notice" (Graves and Cronin 1899-1901, 4: 1296).

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