Cosway’s talent for romanticising his subject is seen quite clearly in this work, with the red lips contrasting strikingly with the sitter’s deep blue-grey eyes, which in turn draws parallels with the sky background.

This sensitive portrait by Richard Cosway is close to his drawing technique and palette, where the sitter is depicted in grey, graphite tones with accents of colour. Arguably, this portrait dates to Cosway’s most successful artistic period. Although capable of work with bright hues, flourishes and dramatic skies, Cosway responded well to the new fashion of the later 18th century, where women began to wear simple white dresses, usually made of cotton muslin, the higher waist defined by a coloured band. Stephen Lloyd notes ‘It was a comfortable and flattering dress, suitable for Arcadian pastimes, and popular with Marie Antoinette and her ladies’. [1]

Cosway’s talent for romanticising his subject is seen quite clearly in this work, with the red lips contrasting strikingly with the sitter’s deep blue-grey eyes, which in turn draws parallels with the sky background. This ability to flatter and bestow unprecedented levels of glamour on his subjects earnt Cosway a considerable reputation and helped solidify...

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This sensitive portrait by Richard Cosway is close to his drawing technique and palette, where the sitter is depicted in grey, graphite tones with accents of colour. Arguably, this portrait dates to Cosway’s most successful artistic period. Although capable of work with bright hues, flourishes and dramatic skies, Cosway responded well to the new fashion of the later 18th century, where women began to wear simple white dresses, usually made of cotton muslin, the higher waist defined by a coloured band. Stephen Lloyd notes ‘It was a comfortable and flattering dress, suitable for Arcadian pastimes, and popular with Marie Antoinette and her ladies’. [1]

Cosway’s talent for romanticising his subject is seen quite clearly in this work, with the red lips contrasting strikingly with the sitter’s deep blue-grey eyes, which in turn draws parallels with the sky background. This ability to flatter and bestow unprecedented levels of glamour on his subjects earnt Cosway a considerable reputation and helped solidify his position as one of the most important English portrait miniatures painters of the eighteenth century.

[1] S. Lloyd, Richard and Maria Cosway; Regency Artists of Taste and Fashion, Edinburgh, 1995, p. 102

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500 Years of British Art