The shadows on the sitter’s bandeau where it disappears into her hair and the contrast between the white fur and blue silk are incredible passages of painting on such a small scale using the challenging technique of watercolour on an ivory support.

This portrait by Richard Cosway dates to the final phase of his career. As a successful artist, established as one of the best portraitists of the age, his mature painting style reflected the growing interest in realism in the late Georgian period. Although Cosway’s palette at this date was often dominated by grey tones, here he was able to record a striking bright blue in the sitter’s cloak and describe the soft white fur trim. His later works reflected a new interest in such details and his ability to employ watercolour to paint such diverse textures delighted his patrons. The shadows on the sitter’s bandeau where it disappears into her hair and the contrast between the white fur and blue silk are incredible passages of painting on such a small scale using the challenging technique of watercolour on an ivory support.

Cosway responded well to the new fashion of the later 18th century, where women began to wear simple white...

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This portrait by Richard Cosway dates to the final phase of his career. As a successful artist, established as one of the best portraitists of the age, his mature painting style reflected the growing interest in realism in the late Georgian period. Although Cosway’s palette at this date was often dominated by grey tones, here he was able to record a striking bright blue in the sitter’s cloak and describe the soft white fur trim. His later works reflected a new interest in such details and his ability to employ watercolour to paint such diverse textures delighted his patrons. The shadows on the sitter’s bandeau where it disappears into her hair and the contrast between the white fur and blue silk are incredible passages of painting on such a small scale using the challenging technique of watercolour on an ivory support.

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] Although the sitter here is unknown, her expensive and eye-catching outfit suggest a fashionable and wealthy sitter, likely in the circle of the Prince of Wales who channelled so many patrons to Cosway’s studio.

[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