Sir Joshua Reynolds and studio

Portrait of a Lady

Medium
Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 756 x 622 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Presented by Miss M.H. Turner 1944
Reference
N05564

Display caption

Turner apparently bought works by Reynolds or from his studio at the sale of the painter's niece, the Marchioness of Thomond, in 1821. One of these, possibly this unfinished sketch, was hung in his hall at Queen Anne Street although it was not listed in the 1854 inventory. The hall was described at the end of his life as being bare, with 'dingy brown' walls, but the inventory hints at a more considered arrangement, including Turner's four casts of Centaur and Lapith metopes from the Elgin Marbles, a pair of painted pedestals with marble tops and a plaster cast on the stairs.

Gallery label, August 2004

Catalogue entry

[from] Works No Longer Attributed to Turner

No. 548: [N05564] Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723–1792) or his Studio

548. Portrait of a Lady

THE TATE GALLERY, LONDON (5564)

Canvas, 29 3/4 × 24 1/2 (75·5 × 62), of which an irregular strip down the left-hand side approx. 6 3/4 (17) wide is a later addition

Coll. ?Sir Joshua Reynolds; ?his niece the Marchioness of Thomond, sold Christie's 26 May 1821 (in lot 10 with another; see below) bought ‘Turner, R.A.’; by descent to Miss M.H. Turner, by whom presented to the Tate Gallery 1944.

The original canvas has been cut irregularly down the left-hand side; the addition was presumably made to balance the composition. At the same time, a large part of the chair was overpainted and the line of the lady's bosom strengthened; there are touchings-up to her eyes and elsewhere. It may well be that these extensive retouchings were in part designed to turn an unfinished sketch into a more finished picture.

The picture was accepted as a gift from Miss M.H. Turner, a collateral descendant of the artist, as the work of J.M.W. Turner, in the manner of, or a copy of, Reynolds. However, in 1974 the compiler, with the help of Miss Elizabeth Einberg, reattributed the picture to Reynolds or his school.

That it was in Turner's collection is nevertheless probable, as the artist's relations were allocated those works in his studio not by Turner himself. In addition, Turner is known to have bought three works by Reynolds at the sale of the latters's niece, the Marchioness of Thomond, one of which, in a single lot (10) with Admiral Lord Keppel, a sketch and described as ‘the late Duchess of Devonshire, the latter not strained’, may be this picture: the fact that it was described as not being on a stretcher fits with the present state of the canvas.

‘Admiral Keppell’ is listed in the Schedule of the Turner Bequest as no. 313, among the works not by Turner. In the same section, no. 354, ‘Portrait—Sir J. Reynolds’, could be either this female portrait or the ‘Portrait of Sir Joshua, unfinished’, which was also bought by Turner at the Thomond sale, lot 11B. There is also an unattributed ‘Portrait of a Lady’, no. 335. (Two other lots, 13 and 27, were bought by ‘Turner’, but the absence of the qualifying ‘R.A.’ found by the name of the purchaser of lots 10 and 11B suggests that this was someone different.)

Published in:
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984

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