Sunday, December 9, 2012

A lovely portrait comes on the market; Elizabeth Lady Forbes by the esteemed Joshua Reynolds

At Christie's Old Master British Paintings Evening Sale on Dec 4 in London, a portrait of Elizabeth Lady Forbes was sold by a private owner. All information contained here regarding the portrait, the image of the portrait and lot information, is courtesy of Christie's.

Portrait of Elizabeth, Lady Forbes (c. 1750-1802), half-length, in a white dress and a pink mantle, with feathers, ribbons and pearls in her hair

(Information provided by Christie's) This portrait of Lady Forbes has not been publicly exhibited since 1859 and has never previously been offered at auction, having descended in the sitter's family to the present owners.The eldest daughter of Sir James Hay M.D., Bt., of Haystoun, Peeblesshire, Elizabeth married the influential Edinburgh banker, Sir William Forbes, 6th Bt. of Monymusk (1739-1806), in 1770. Forbes was only four when he inherited the baronetcy, and later succeeded to the title and arms of Pitsligo in 1781, but declined the offer by Pitt of an Irish peerage in 1799 and also refused parliamentary seats. Articled to Coutts bank in Edinburgh at the age of fifteen, Forbes forged a career as one of the leading bankers of his age in Scotland, always paying tribute to the Coutts family as the architects of his success. ... A man of considerable wealth, Forbes was also a great philanthropist...
Forbes commissioned Reynolds to paint this arresting portrait of his wife, together with a portrait of himself, in circa 1775-6 (D. Mannings, Sir Joshua Reynolds: A Complete Catalogue of His Paintings, New Haven and London, 2000, I, p. 199, no. 657; II, fig. 1182). Untraced since it was exhibited in 1859, this painting was not included in the catalogue raisonné of the artist's work published by David Mannings in 2000. However, Professor Mannings and Martin Postle have independently confirmed the attribution and dated this portrait to circa 1775-6, the former on the basis of photographs and the latter on first-hand inspection of the painting. 

Gilbert Stuart studied under Benjamin West when he lived in London, but also took courses from Joshua Reynolds.  Reynolds was surely an inspiration to Stuart.

bottom J. Reynolds by Gilbert Stuart

From Lawrence Park (on Stuart's portrait of Reynolds) 

This celebrated English portrait painter was born July 16, 1723, at Plympton, in Devonshire. His father was the Reverand Samuel Reynolds, and his mother, Theophila, daughter of Matthew Potter. Studied under Thomas Hudson in London from 1740 to 1743. In 1749 he went to Italy and lived for two years in Rome. In 1752 he returned, via Paris, to London, and his brilliant career of forty years followed. In 1768 he was one of the founders of the Royal Academy, London, and became its first president. The same year he was knighted.

The portrait of Lady Forbes sold for $339,901.00.  According to the Wall St J Dec 8-9 2012 some works by Peter Paul Rubens, Anthony Van Dyck and Tintoretto were 'snubbed.'  I am sorry to say that I was not the one who was able to purchase this lovely portrait, the buyer remains unidentified.  I hope that the portrait is able to be shown to the public in the future, for it is stunning.  It is possible to see Reynolds' influence on Stuart's portrait style.  I wonder how the owner, supposedly a descendant, could part with it.

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