Musée du Luxembourg (Paris, France): Gainsborough to Turner: The Golden Age of English Painting
- George Romney 1734–1802
- Oil paint on canvas
- Support: 756 x 622 mm
frame: 910 x 785 x 95 mm
- Bequeathed by Alexander Trotter 1913
Technique and condition
The portrait of Mrs Robert Trotter of Bush was painted by George Romney in six sittings between 22 April and 18
May 1788. The painting was framed and delivered on 14
March 1789 at a cost of £26 5s.
The support is a standard three-quarter linen canvas measuring 30 inches by 25 inches. The twill canvas is primed with a thin layer of lead white paint.
No underdrawing is visible to the naked eye but, as the x-radiograph reveals, Romney sketched in the broad balance of the composition in fast notational brushstrokes.
The painting is executed in oil and in general thinly painted. The face has a tighter, more controlled use of paint than the costume and landscape. Romney built up the face in a series of thin layers, starting with a base coat of pale red, and following with wet-in-wet modelling in pre-mixed tints of flesh colour. These are worked from pale to progressively deeper shadows. Neighbouring tones are feathered together to create a smooth transition with a softener; a fan-like brush. Final accents of complementary colours are sharp single marks.
The costume and background have a comparatively light touch of descriptive brushwork, with restrained modelling that belies the compositional changes that lie underneath. These are visible in the x-radiograph, and may be glimpsed through the fissures of drying crackle.
Changes to the clothing include a collar, a more modest fichu and the beginnings of a right sleeve. Alterations to the hat and sky are echoed in the pattern of drying cracks. Cracks are related to the application of thin, faster drying paint over thicker layers of slow-drying paint containing Prussian blue. This form of Prussian blue is fugitive. The hat was originally deeper in tone, and the sky generally more blue. For this reason, the painting is shown in lower light levels, which should retard anticipated colour change.
The painting and frame were recently cleaned and restored.
Mary A. Bustin