John Singer Sargent (American, 1856–1925)
Oil on canvas
81 x 45 1/2 in. (205.7 x 115.6 cm)
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Douglass Campbell, in memory of Mrs. Richard E. Danielson, 1998 (1998.365)
Mrs. Hammersley (born Mary Frances Grant), the twenty-nine-year-old banker's wife and fashionable London hostess, is lightly poised on an elegant French sofa. Her willowy form and candid expression suggest Sargent's ability to characterize and flatter her simultaneously. Her gold-trimmed silk-velvet dress and the sumptuous setting announce his mastery of varied textures.
This portrait confirmed Sargent's skills among potential (but reluctant) English patrons when it appeared at the New Gallery in London in 1893. The positive reviews it received there and in an exhibition in 1894 finally quashed misgivings that his Madame X (Madame Pierre Gautreau) (16.53) had aroused in 1884. The canvas is among the first in a series of ravishing portraits by Sargent of glamorous English women that culminated in The Wyndham Sisters (1899, 27.67).
Financial reverses compelled Mrs. Hammersley's widower to sell the painting in 1923. At Sargent's suggestion, it was purchased by Charles Deering, an American friend, in whose family it descended.