Portrait of a Woman, Her Head Turned to the Right, Wearing an Earring

Artist: Joseph Wright (Wright of Derby) (British, Derby 1734–1797 Derby)

Date: ca. 1770–72

Medium: Pastel on blue laid paper

Dimensions: sheet: 15 7/8 x 11 in. (40.3 x 28 cm)

Classification: Drawings

Credit Line: Rogers Fund, 2007

Accession Number: 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, and that the model was a friend or family member.