British Museum guidebook, £3.50
Height: 464.000 mm
Width: 330.000 mm
Prints and Drawings
Thomas Gainsborough, Study for a portrait of a Lady with a rose, a drawing
England, about AD 1763-65
In this large-scale drawing, the lady is seen in profile, holding a rose in her right hand. Although her features are visible under her broad-brimmed hat, the purpose of the drawing would seem to be a study of the drapery and pose for a portrait. Her feet are gracefully poised below a full-length skirt, which she lifts on one side in a casual and tantalizing fashion, revealing the different and complex layers of her costume. The background and the few leaves and blades of grass in the foreground are sketched in lightly.
The white chalk is used to indicate the light falling on her lacy sleeves, apron and outer costume, and to highlight the pearls on the choker around her neck and the petals of the rose. The black chalk provides a strong contrast to the shadows and firmer outlines of the forms of the drapery.
Many scholars have suggested that this delicately drawn figure may be a preparatory study for the beautiful portrait of Mary, Countess Howe (Kenwood House, London), in which she wears a similar hat, pearl necklace and lacy dress. The elongated height of the figure and her long limbs may be the result of Gainsborough drawing from a costumed doll rather than a living model.
J. Hayes and L. Stainton, Gainsborough drawings (Washington International Exhibitions Foundation, 1983)
M. Rosenthal, The art of Gainsborough: a lit (New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1999)
A. French (ed.), The Earl and Countess Howe, by, exh. cat. (Kenwood House, London)