Joseph Wright (Wright of Derby) (British, 1734–1797)
Grisaille pastel on blue laid paper
sheet: 15 7/8 x 11 in. (40.3 x 28 cm)
Rogers Fund, 2007 (2007.40)
One of the most accomplished and inventive artists of his generation, Joseph Wright "of Derby" was based in the English Midlands for most of his career, becoming known as a portraitist in oils and for the striking night pieces of contemporary subjects he sent to London exhibitions. This highly finished drawing belongs to a group of about a dozen head studies in pastels or chalks that Wright executed during the decade before 1773, when he departed for two years of study in Italy. Although the drawing demonstrates Wright's masterful ability to capture a likeness, it has not been related to a known portrait commission. The informality of the subject's open-necked gown, together with her sharply turned head and averted gaze, suggest that she was intended to be seen as a character type.