Thomas Gainsborough (British, Sudbury 1727–1788 London)
Oil on canvas
30 1/8 x 24 7/8 in. (76.5 x 63.2 cm)
Mr. and Mrs. Isaac D. Fletcher Collection, Bequest of Isaac D. Fletcher, 1917
Not on view
The sitter is first identified as Miss Sparrow, of whom nothing further is known, in an engraving of 1870 by G. H. Every. The soft, feathery touch and pastel palette, as well as the rather generic costume, suggest a date in the 1770s.
Copies are recorded in the following collections: William W. Pearce, London (sold 1872); Henry J. Pfungst, London (sold 1917); Pembroke Galleries, Bristol (in 1918); and Frederick A. Szarvasy, London (sold 1948; see Baetjer 2009 for further details). The title Duchess of Gloucester was added to some of these copies, possibly in order to make them more salable. Maria Walpole, Duchess of Gloucester during the period in question, sat for Gainsborough twice: after her first husband’s death in 1763, as the widowed Countess Waldegrave (Los Angeles County Museum of Art), and in the 1770s, as the Duchess of Gloucester (Taft Museum of Art, Cincinnati). The resemblance between Maria Walpole and the Museum's sitter is slight at best.
[2010; adapted from Baetjer 2009]
?Sir W. Holburne, Baronet (in 1856); Louis Huth (by 1870–at least 1898); [Stephen T. Gooden, London, by 1908–at least 1910]; ?[Sir George Donaldson, London]; Mr. and Mrs. Isaac D. Fletcher, New York (until his d. 1917)
London. Grosvenor Gallery. "Thomas Gainsborough, R.A.," 1885, no. 85 (as "A Lady, Name Unknown," lent by Louis Huth).
Berlin. Königliche Akademie der Künste. "Aelterer Englischer Kunst," January 26–February 23, 1908, no. 37 (as "Miss Sparrow," lent by Stephen G. Gooden).
Copenhagen. Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek. "Ældre Engelsk Kunst," 1908, no. 4 (as "Miss Sparrow," lent by Stephen G. Gooden).
Paris. Jeu de Paume. "Cent portraits de femmes," April 23–July 1, 1909, no. 6 (as "Miss Sparrow," lent by Stephen T. Gooden).
Louisville. J. B. Speed Art Museum. "Old Masters from the Metropolitan," December 1, 1948–January 23, 1949, no catalogue.
Madison. Memorial Union Gallery, University of Wisconsin. "Old Masters from the Metropolitan," February 15–March 30, 1949, unnumbered cat.
Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center. "Old Masters from the Metropolitan," April 24–June 30, 1949, no catalogue.
Columbus, Ga. Columbus Museum of Arts and Crafts. "A Centenary of a Great Museum: Old Master Paintings," November 1, 1969–October 31, 1970, unnum. checklist.
Leningrad [St. Petersburg]. State Hermitage Museum. "100 Paintings from the Metropolitan Museum," May 22–July 27, 1975, no. 40 (as Miss Sparrow).
Moscow. State Pushkin Museum. "100 Paintings from the Metropolitan Museum," August 28–November 2, 1975, no. 40.
George Williams Fulcher. Life of Thomas Gainsborough, R.A. London, 1856, p. 227, lists a portrait of a lady in a white satin dress and blue mantle edged with fur, 21 by 26 in., in the collection of Sir W. Holburne, Bt.—possibly this picture.
Engravings from the Works of Thomas Gainsborough, R.A. by J. Scott, G. H. Every, G. Sanders, and Other Eminent Engravers. London, n.d. [ca. 1880], unpaginated, no. 103, ill., as Miss Sparrow, from the original picture in the possession of Louis Huth, an engraving by G. H. Every published by Henry Graves & Co. of 6 Pall Mall in 1870.
Walter Armstrong. Gainsborough & His Place in English Art. London, 1898, p. 202 [popular ed., New York, 1904, p. 279], as Miss Sparrow, half-length, in an oval, 30 x 25 in., in the collection of L. Huth.
Armand Dayot and Claude Phillips. Maîtres du XVIIIe siècle: Cents portraits de femmes des écoles anglaise et française. Paris, 1910, p. 6, ill. opp. p. 6, as Miss Sparrow.
C. H. Collins Baker. British Painting. London, 1933, p. 279, as Miss Sparrow.
E[llis]. K. Waterhouse. "Preliminary Check List of Portraits by Thomas Gainsborough." Walpole Society 33 (1953), p. 100, as Miss Sparrow, dating from the later 1770s.
Ellis Waterhouse. Gainsborough. London, 1958, p. 90, no. 626, as Miss Sparrow, probably from the later 1770s.
Howard Hibbard. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1980, pp. 378, 384, fig. 679 (color).
Katharine Baetjer. British Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1575–1875. New York, 2009, pp. 96–98, no. 42, ill. (color).