T02217 MRS. WODHULL c. 1770
Oil on canvas, 96 × 65 (243.8 × 165)
Presented by Dr D.M. McDonald 1977
Prov: Bequeathed by the sitter's husband Michael Wodhull to his sister-in-law Mary Ingram in 1816, and bequeathed by her to Samuel Amy Severne in 1824; thence by descent to A.W. Severne, by whom sold to the donor in 1968.
Exh: Paintings from the Collection of Dr D.M. McDonald, Leggatt Bros. 1970 (39, repr.).
Lit: J. Chaloner Smith, British Mezzotinto Portraits, 1884, p.692, no.124; R. Gibson, catalogue of Paintings from the Collection of Dr. D.M. McDonald, 1970, p.78, repr.p.79; M. Webster, catalogue of Johan Zoffany exhibition, National Portrait Gallery 1977, pp.11, 53.
The sitter is Catherine Milcah Ingram (1744–1808), a daughter of the Rev John Ingram of Wolford, Warwickshire. In 1761 she married Michael Wodhull (1740 – 1816), the wealthy and distinguished translator of the works of Euripides, collector of books and prints, and minor poet. The painting was probably commissioned in 1770 or soon after, to be hung in the South Library at Thenford, the Wodhull family seat in Northamptonshire. The Leggatt exhibition catalogue (1970) states that there were reportedly family documents (so far untraced) that showed that the portrait was originally commissioned as a half-length, but that the Wodhulls were so pleased with Zoffany's work that they asked for it to be enlarged to a full-length. This tradition is corroborated in so far as there is a noticeable join in the canvas around the upper part of the figure, consistent with the shape of a half-length portrait, and in that the areas around the join show evidence of extensive pentimenti, apparently contemporary with the picture. The lower edge of the inset cuts across her left hand below the wrist, above the basket of flowers, and the slight awkwardness of its position is clearly due to a radical redesigning of the area to effect a smooth transition between the upper and lower halves of the figure. The final composition was engraved in mezzotint by Richard Houston and published in May 1772.
The portrait is one of Zoffany's rare essays in the fashionable classicising grand style on the scale of life, and may have been prompted by the success of Cotes and Reynolds in this line.
The Tate Gallery 1976-8: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1979