Portrait of a Woman; (reverse, now covered by relining canvas) Study of a Child's Head
John Hoppner (British, London 1758–1810 London)
Oil on canvas
30 x 24 7/8 in. (76.2 x 63.2 cm)
Gift of William T. and Eleanor Blodgett, 1906
Not on view
Formerly ascribed to Romney, this picture was attributed to Hoppner by curator Roger Fry shortly after it entered the Museum's collection in 1906. Later scholars have concurred. It seems to be a quite characteristic, unfinished work of the 1790s, as does the oil sketch of a child’s head on the back of the original canvas (see Additional Images). The face and bright expression of the child are rather similar to Charles Brinsley Sheridan’s in another portrait by the artist in the Museum's collection (65.203). In the lower left corner of the sketch on the reverse there is a faint drawing of a draped figure from behind, apparently a woman, with a child by her side.
Typically, Hoppner paid little attention to the arrangement of the sitter’s arms and omitted the hands altogether. He evidently laid in the purplish brown tone to the right of the sitter’s head with the intention of making a correction in the contour of her hair, a change he never completed.
The painting was formerly thought to depict Mrs. Fitzherbert (Maria Anne Smythe, 1756–1837), the morganatic wife of the Prince of Wales, later George IV. A portrait of her is listed among the unfinished paintings and sketches in the 1823 Hoppner estate sale (William McKay and W. Roberts, John Hoppner, R.A., 1909, pp. 130, 325). However, portraits of Mrs. Fitzherbert by Gainsborough (Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco), Cosway (private collection), and Reynolds (private collection) bear little resemblance to the sitter in the Museum's painting.
A version attributed to John Opie in which the sitter is identified as Anna Seward, a poet and writer known as "the Swan of Lichfield", was formerly in the collection of W. Percival Boxall and was included in the Exhibition of English Masters at Knoedler's, London, 1911, no. 5. Portraits of Seward by Tilly Kettle (National Portrait Gallery, London) and Romney (Robert Hull Fleming Museum, University of Vermont, Burlington) have little in common with the Museum's sitter, who remains nameless.
[2010; adapted from Baetjer 2009]
?Hon. P. S. Pierrepont (in 1858); William T. Blodgett, New York (by 1874–d. 1875); Mrs. William T. (Abby Blake) Blodgett, New York (1875–d. 1904); their children, William T. and Eleanor Blodgett, New York (1904–6)
London. British Institution. "Italian, Spanish, Flemish, Dutch, French, and English Masters," June 1858, no. 110 (as "Mrs. Fitzherbert," by Romney, lent by the Hon. P. S. Pierrepont, possibly this picture).
Paris. Musée Historique du Costume. "Union centrale des beaux-arts appliqués à l'industrie, quatrième exposition," 1874, unnumbered cat. (p. 104, as Mrs. Fitzherbert by Romney, lent by W. Tilden Blodgett).
New York. National Academy of Design. "Loan Exhibition of Portraits," December 14, 1898–January 14, 1899, no. 209 (as "Mrs. Fitzherbert," by Romney, lent by Mrs. Wm. T. Blodgett).
Augustin de Buisseret. "George Romney." L'art 4 (1876), p. 120, ill. opp. p. 118 (engraving by Charles Waltner), as Mrs. Fitzherbert by Romney in the Blodgett collection.
André Mellerio. "L'école et l'enseignement par l'image." L'art 62 (1903), p. 446, ill. (Waltner's engraving).
Humphry Ward and W[illiam]. Roberts. Romney: A Biographical and Critical Essay with a Catalogue Raisonné of his Works. London, 1904, vol. 2, p. 54, list as a third portrait by Romney of this sitter a picture exhibited at the British Institution in 1858 (no. 110, possibly this work).
George H. Story. "Principal Accessions by Gift." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 1 (February 1906), pp. 48, 51, ill. between pp. 42 and 43, as a portrait of Mrs. Fitzherbert painted by Romney for George IV when Prince Regent; states that it came from the collection of Viscount Rambaugh.
Freeman O'Donoghue. Catalogue of Engraved British Portraits Preserved in the Department of Prints and Drawings in the British Museum. Vol. 2, London, 1910, p. 218.
P[ercy]. M[oore]. Turner. "Pictures of the English School in New York." Burlington Magazine 22 (February 1913), pp. 269–70, as Mrs. Fitzherbert, "a characteristic Hoppner of the best period".
Bryson Burroughs. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Catalogue of Paintings. 9th ed. New York, 1931, p. 307, as by Romney.
C. H. Collins Baker. British Painting. London, 1933, p. 280, as by Hoppner.
Katharine Baetjer. British Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1575–1875. New York, 2009, pp. 186–89, no. 92, ill. (color), fig. 117 (reverse).
Old Master & British Paintings. Christie's, London. April 28, 2016, p. 80, under no. 128.
The sketch of a child's head on the reverse of the canvas was covered when the picture was relined in 1945.
A copy was sold at Sotheby Parke Bernet, Los Angeles, March 16, 1981, no. 43, ill., as Portrait of a Lady, by School of George Romney. A watercolor copy was in the possession of Gladstone's Fine Works of Art on Paper, Miami, Florida, in 1982.
A bust-length version was sold at Christie's, London, April 28, 2016, no. 128, ill. (color), as Attributed to Hoppner (oil on Whatman paper laid on board, 17 1/2 x 13 in.).