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Mary Beale was the most prolific professional female portraitist working in England in the 17th century. This engagingly informal oil sketch was probably an experiment in attempting to finish a work in one session, rather than the more costly and time-consuming four or five. Mary Beale used members of her family and studio as models for such works. In 1681, for example, her female studio assistant and her godchild were painted ‘in side face’, as here.

February 2016