Portrait of a woman, her head turned to the right, wearing an earring

Joseph Wright (Wright of Derby) British

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 690

One of the most inventive artists of his generation, Wright sent striking night images of contemporary subjects to London from his home in Derby. This drawing belongs to a group of pastel and chalk head studies he made before departing for Italy in 1773. While the work demonstrates a masterful ability to capture a likeness, it has not been linked to a known sitter. Indeed, the open-necked gown and averted gaze suggest a character head rather than a portrait. Delicacy of touch and astonishing control of grisaille pastel allowed the artist to depict subtle transitions of light and varying textures. Careful finish is married to an impression of arrested movement, with strong raking light conveying a palpable sense of physical presence.

Portrait of a woman, her head turned to the right, wearing an earring, Joseph Wright (Wright of Derby) (British, Derby 1734–1797 Derby), Pastel on blue laid paper

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