Attributed to Richard Cosway
A Lady (? Harriet Mellon) as a Sibyl c.1805

Artwork details

Attributed to Richard Cosway 1742–1821
A Lady (? Harriet Mellon) as a Sibyl
Date c.1805
Medium Oil paint on mahogany
Dimensions Support: 764 x 624 mm
Acquisition Purchased 1985
Not on display

Display caption

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

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