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Painted for the sitter's husband, Lord George Cavendish [1754-1934], of Keighley; by descent to John Compton Cavendish, 4th Baron Chesham [1894-1952]. (M. Knoedler & Co., London), from whose New York branch it was purchased October 1928 by 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, 1782, no. 204, as Portrait of a Lady.
British Institution, London, 1813, no. 37.
Pictures by Italian, Spanish, Flemish, Dutch, French and English Masters, British Institution, London, 1857, no. 139.
Works by the Old Masters, and by Deceased Masters of the British School. Winter Exhibition, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1880, no. 135.
Tenth Annual Exhibiton on Behalf of the Artists' General Benevolent Institution, Thos. Agnew & Sons, Ltd., London, 1904, no. 11.
Sixteen Masterpieces, M. Knoedler & Co., Inc., New York, 1930, no. 5, repro.

Technical Summary

The medium-lightweight canvas is fairly tightly twill woven; it has been lined. The ground is white, of moderate thickness. The painting is boldly executed in fluid, broad layers, ranging from thick impasto in the lights, with some palette-knife applications, to thin, dry scumbling and glazes. The texture of the paint is buttery, and it may contain nonoil additives. There are pentimenti in the folds of the sleeves around the forearms, below the sitter's left shoulder, and in the contours of the hair, and a plume or decoration at the top center of the hair seems to have been painted out. The paint layers are in poor condition owing partly to Reynolds' experimental painting techniques and partly to insensitive past restoration. There is extensive abrading and the impasto has been flattened during the linings; there is extensive overpainting in the severe traction crackle in the darks, which was caused by the presence of bitumen. The natural resin varnish has discolored yellow to a significant degree.


Morning Herald, 2 May 1782.
St. James's Chronicle, 30 April 1782.
Leslie, Charles Robert and Tom Talylor. Life and Times of Sir Joshua Reynolds. 2 vols. London, 1865: 2:343, 361.
Graves, Algernon and William Vine Cronin. A History of the Works of Sir Joshua Reynolds. 4 vols. London, 1899-1901: 1:134, 188-189; 4:1285, 1547.
Armstrong, Sir Walter. Sir Joshua Reynolds. London, 1900: 200.
Valentiner, Wilhelm R., ed. Unknown Masterpieces in Public and Private Collections. London, 1930: n.p., pl. 93.
Preliminary Catalogue of Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1941: 167, no. 97.
Waterhouse, Sir Ellis. Reynolds. London, 1941: 74, pl. 230.
Book of Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1942: 241, repro. 17.
Paintings and Sculpture from the Mellon Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1949 (reprinted 1953 and 1958): 108, repro.
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: 113.
National Gallery of Art. European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. Washington, 1968: 101, repro.
European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 302, repro.
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1975: no. 506, color repro.
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 361, no. 504, color repro.
European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 348, repro.
Hayes, John. British Paintings of the Sixteenth through Nineteenth Centuries. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 1992: 220-221, repro. 221.

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