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Cosway's speciality was full-length miniature portraits in pencil, the faces finished in delicate watercolour. Here he tackles a portrait in a rather more ambitious format, presenting the young sitter as the muse of dancing or, perhaps, of lyric poetry, with attendant putti. The idea of depicting modern personalities in this classical disguise had been recommended by Sir Joshua Reynolds as an appropriate means of conferring intellectual dignity on pictures of pretty young ladies. This is an unfinished sketch, but as in Cosway's miniatures the face has been accorded detailed attention.

August 2004