Thomas Gainsborough (British, Sudbury 1727–1788 London)
Black chalk with touches of red wash
Sheet (corners trimmed): 11 3/4 x 7 in. (29.8 x 17.8 cm)
Purchase, Lila Acheson Wallace, Christine Burgin and Donald Young Foundation Gifts, 2012
Not on view
In 1760 Gainsborough moved to Bath, England’s leading spa city, where he made this delicate chalk drawing in preparation for a lifesize oil portrait of Ann Ford. Ford was an amateur singer and musician whose bravura private performances were taking the town by storm, and Gainsborough intended his painting to establish his national reputation. He used soft black chalk to explore the seated pose and to suggest diamond-shaped pendant earrings and a dark neck ribbon. Hands and facial features are indicated lightly, since the artist would work these up in oil on the canvas. More detailed are the elaborate silk gown with long lace cuffs, loosely tied satin bows on bodice and sleeves, and skirt decorated with looped ribbons and rosettes. Trained in the French manner by Hubert-Franois Gravelot at St. Martin’s Lane Academy in London, Gainsborough had mastered the expressive potential of chalk at an early age and, in this mature sheet, created a fluid graphic web that delights in the abstract possibilities of the fashionably dressed female form.
Study of a Lady Seated, Holding a Letter
The artist's daughter: Margaret Gainsborough (British, 1751–1820); Richard James Lane (British, Gloucestershire 1800–1872 Campden Hill, Kensington); Emily Lane (British, born 1839); Sir Charles Archibald Nicholson, 2nd Baronet (British, 1867–1949), received from the preceding in March 1916; (Possibly) Sir John Charles Nicholson, 3rd Baronet (British, 1904–1986); John Samuel Richardon, Baron Richardson (British, Sheffield 1910–2004 Braunton, Devon), received from the son of 2nd baronet Nicholson; Sale, Sotheby's, London12 March 1987, lot 30 (sold by the preceding); Sale, Sotheby's, New York, 25 Jan 2012, lot 23; Vendor: Katrin Bellinger Kunsthandel, Munich
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Drawings and Prints: Selections from the Permanent Collection," November 19, 2013–February 10, 2014.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Paper Chase: Two Decades of Collecting Drawings and Prints," December 9, 2014–March 16, 2015.
Sotheby's, London Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century British Drawings and Watercolours. [Sale catalogue]. London, March 12, 1987, lot 39, p. 36, ill.
Hugh Belsey "A Second Supplement of John Hayes's The Drawings of Thomas Gainsborough." Master Drawings. vol. 46, 2008, cat. no. 992, p. 458.
Old Master Drawings. [Sale catalogue]. Sotheby's, New York, New York, January 25, 2012, lot 23 (as Study of a Lady Seated, Holding a Letter).
Artist: After Thomas Gainsborough (British, Sudbury 1727–1788 London)Date: 18th–19th centuryMedium: Soft-ground etching on blue paper with touches of white chalkAccession: 53.531.42On view in:Not on view