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Mary Beale is one of the earliest professional female artists active in Britain and probably the best-documented 17th-century painter. Her husband Charles Beale managed her studio, keeping an account of her commissions and activity. This study depicts Bartholomew Beale (1656-1709), the elder of her sons. It may relate to a self-portrait with her family (Geffrye Museum) painted around 1659-60, in which case Bartholomew would be about four years old. In the 1670s he worked as a studio assistant to his mother but by 1680 had abandoned painting to study medicine at Cambridge, later practising as a physician in Coventry.

October 2013