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These intimate sketches show Mary Beale’s elder son Bartholomew Beale (1656–1709) at around four years of age. In the 1670s Bartholomew 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. The technique of producing oil sketches on primed paper, rather than sketching in chalk on paper or in paint on canvas, is unusual and characteristic of Mary Beale’s early work.

February 2016