A Late Regency Portrait of a Lady Wearing a Sicilian Coral Necklace
Medium: oil on oak panel
W 38.7 cm × H 44 cm
Within this fine three-quarter portrait, we see the depiction of a lady painted by an English artist, circa 1830. Where we see the late-Regency period portrayed through a radiancy of pearlescent quality, whilst the young lady is adorned in a fashionable black silk dress. The highlighted folds of fabric flow flatteringly and suggest an abundance of rich material. It is undoubted that the artist has taken both elements of compositional and stylistic inspiration from the portrait painter, Sir Thomas Lawrence. Who’s death in 1830 marked the end of the great age of portrait painting in England.
The sitter’s identity is currently unknown, though we can infer through her costume, that she was amongst the upper-classes of English society. Her dress exudes drama and elegance with French gigot sleeves that were one of the most distinctive elements of 1830s fashion, and a waistline cinched in by a wide belt. The accessories appear minimal, though she wears a bracelet on her wrist, that features a small cameo or miniature, and a vibrant red coral necklace is seen to adorn her neck. The coral jewellery of this period was typically sourced from Sicily and was acquired by explorers of the Grand Tour when visiting Italy.
Here in the present portrait, the lady sits before a rather plain background, for a beige-grey wall is conveyed with a light-source directed from the left-hand side of the pictorial field. It is clear that the handling of light has been handled with care and delicacy, as a shadow falls softly behind the sitter. Brushstrokes accentuate the gold elements throughout the portrait, visible on the gilding of the Regency style chair, the belt buckle and the long thin chain. The overall effect alludes to the contemporary gesso-gilt frame that the portrait sits within, and creates a coherent relationship between the setting and the subject.
It was stated by Thomas Carlyle that a “painting is worthless, except portrait painting”. A remark that offers light on his belief that portraiture should be considered as an important record of documentation. Which may be apparent for the portrait at present, that offers a glimpse into the richness of life for Late-Regency England.
Maas, J., Victorian Painting (Barrie & Jenkins Ltd, London, 1969).
“Painting is worthless, except portrait painting” - Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881).