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Provenance

Probably intended for the sitter's husband, Paul Cobb Methuen [1752-1816], Corsham Court, Wiltshire, but possibly neither finished nor delivered. Possibly (Mrs. Gainsborough sale, Christie's, London, 10-11 April 1797, 1st day, no. 12);[1] Caleb Whitefoord [1734-1810]. Paul Sanford Methuen, 3rd baron Methuen [1845-1932], Corsham Court; purchased c.1893 by (Wallis & Son, London); sold 1893 to Peter A.B. Widener, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania; inheritance from the Estate of Peter A.B. Widener by gift through power of appointment of Joseph E. Widener, Elkins Park; gift 1942 to NGA.

Bibliography
1856
Fulcher, George Williams. Life of Thomas Gainsborough, R.A.. 2d rev. ed., London, 1856: 229.
1898
Armstrong, Sir Walter. Gainsborough & His Place in English Art. London, 1898: 199; popular ed., London, 1904: 273.
1915
Roberts, William. Pictures in the Collection of P.A.B. Widener at Lynnewood Hall, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania: British and Modern French Schools, Philadelphia, 1915: unpaginated, repro.
1923
Paintings in the Collection of Joseph Widener at Lynnewood Hall. Intro. by Wilhelm R. Valentiner. Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, 1923: unpaginated, repro., as Portrait of Mrs. Methuen.
1931
Paintings in the Collection of Joseph Widener at Lynnewood Hall. Intro. by Wilhelm R. Valentiner. Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, 1931: 8, repro., as Portrait of Mrs. Methuen.
1942
Works of Art from the Widener Collection. Foreword by David Finley and John Walker. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1942: 5, as Mrs. Methuen.
1948
Paintings and Sculpture from the Widener Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1948 (reprinted 1959): 84, repro., as Mrs. Methuen.
1958
Waterhouse, Sir Ellis. Gainsborough. London, 1958: no. 483.
1965
Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 55, Mrs. Methuen.
1968
European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1968: 47, repro., as Mrs. Methuen.
1975
European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 142, repro., as Mrs. Methuen.
1985
European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 165, 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: 87-90, repro. 89.
Technical Summary

The very fine, tightly plain-woven canvas was originally rectangular in format but was cut down to an oval size at a later date. Subsequently the painting was enlarged again, once more to a rectangular format, by means of lining onto a rectangular auxiliary canvas. Because the oval composition was slightly below the center point of this new rectangular format, the painting was later cut down along the bottom edge, and perhaps relined. The ground of the original canvas is white, thinly applied; a thicker white ground was applied to the added canvas, masking the weave. The original painting was executed thinly and fluidly with slight impasto in the highlights of the pearls and dress. The paint surface has been abraded overall, severely in the feathers, and the impasto has been flattened slightly during lining; there are no major losses. The thick natural resin varAnish has discolored yellow to a considerable degree.