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This portrait was probably commissioned to commemorate the children’s mother, who had died in October 1741. To the right is Thomas Mansel. At his side are his eldest half-brother Shovel and sister Mary. The youngest child, John, is seated at the left, smiling towards the viewer. Mary, who was visually impaired, places her hand over the bird’s breast, perhaps to demonstrate the importance to her of the sense of touch. The distinctive reddish-brown horseshoe mark is part of the partridge’s natural plumage rather than blood; the presence of which would have appeared indelicate in polite portraiture.

February 2010