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Painted for the sitter's mother, Georgiana, Countess Spencer [1737-1814], wife of John Spencer, 1st earl Spencer [1734-1783], Althorp, Northamptonshire; by descent[1] to John, 7th earl Spencer [1892-1975], Althorp; purchased 1924 by (Duveen Brothers, Inc., London and New York); sold 13 April 1925 to Andrew W. Mellon, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C.; deeded December 1934 to The A.W. Mellon Educational and Charitable Trust, Pittsburgh; gift 1937 to NGA.

Exhibition History

Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1783, no. 78, as Portrait of a lady of quality.
The Works of Ancient Masters and Deceased British Artists, British Institution, London, 1859, no. 149.
International Exhibition, South Kensington, London, 1862, no. 72.
The Works of Thomas Gainsborough, R.A., Grosvenor Gallery, London, 1885, no. 145.
Loan Collection of Pictures, Corporation of London Art Gallery, 1892, no. 92.
Thomas Gainsborough and the Modern Woman, Cincinnati Art Museum; San Diego Museum of Art, 2010-2011, not in catalogue (shown only in San Diego).

Technical Summary

The medium-coarse canvas is closely plain woven; it has been lined. Paint is visible on all four edges of the tacking margins, indicating that the canvas was originally stretched on a larger stretcher; the painting has been in this reduced state for a long period of time. The reduction in size, at most two centimeters, has taken place in a greater degree along the top and right edges, perhaps in an effort to place the figure very slightly more centrally in the composition. The ground is light in color and is a fairly dense substance. The painting is executed in layers blended wet into wet, using glazes and scumbles, with impasted highlights; the heaviness of the paint varies from thin washes to thick impasto; the brushwork is prominent in the paint film. Pentimenti are visible in the sash, the wrap, and the lower left area of the sitter's dress. There are scattered retouchings throughout the painting and drying cracks, particularly prevalent in the sitter's dress. The heavily applied natural resin varnish has discolored yellow to a significant degree.


Morning Herald, 29 April 1783.
Morning Post, 1 May 1783.
St. James's Chronicle, 1 May 1783.
Dibdin, Thomas Fognall. Aedes Althorpianae. London, 1822: 275.
Graves, Henry, & Company. Engravings from the Works of Thomas Gainsborough, R.A.. London, c. 1880: no. 33 (mezzotint by R. B. Parkes, published 1870).
Armstrong, Sir Walter. Gainsborough & His Place in English Art. London, 1898: 194; popular ed., London, 1904: 263.
Whitley, William T. Thomas Gainsborough. London, 1915: 197-199.
Whitley, William T. Artists and Their Friends in England 1700-1800. London, 1928: 1:396-398.
Duveen Brothers. Duveen Pictures in Public Collections of America. New York, 1941: no. 284, repro.
Preliminary Catalogue of Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1941: 71, no. 93.
Book of Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1942: 241, repro. 14.
Paintings and Sculpture from the Mellon Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1949 (reprinted 1953 and 1958): 109, repro.
Shapley, Fern Rusk. Comparisons in Art: A Companion to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. London, 1957 (reprinted 1959): pl. 89.
Waterhouse, Sir Ellis. Gainsborough. London, 1958: no. 194, pl. 206.
The National Gallery of Art and Its Collections. Foreword by Perry B. Cott and notes by Otto Stelzer. National Gallery of Art, Washington (undated, 1960s): 19, repro. 20.
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. New York, 1963 (reprinted 1964 in French, German, and Spanish): 319, repro.
Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 54.
National Gallery of Art. European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. Washington, 1968: 47, repro.
European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 142, repro.
Paulson, Ronald. Emblem and Expression: Meaning in English Art of the Eighteenth Century. London, 1975: 216, pl. 148.
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1975: no. 496, color repro.
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 357, no. 494, color repro.
European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 164, repro.
Kopper, Philip. America's National Gallery of Art: A Gift to the Nation. New York, 1991: 60.
Hayes, John. British Paintings of the Sixteenth through Nineteenth Centuries. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 1992: 95-97, repro. 96.
Bennett, Shelly M. The Art of Weath: The Huntingtons in the Gilded Age. San Marino, 2013: 271, 273, 275, 277, color fig. 5.5.

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