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During the early years of his career Constable painted portraits and altarpieces as well as landscape oils. This pencil sketch is a study for his large group portrait of 'The Bridges Family' in the Tate Gallery. The finished picture shows George Bridges, a banker and merchant, with his wife and eight children in their Essex home, Lawford Place. At the time Constable was painting the portrait, he was said to have 'showed an admiration' for the eldest daughter, Mary Ann, shown here playing the harpsichord with two of her sisters. His visits were consequently discouraged, perhaps because he was perceived as an inappropriate suitor.

September 2004