MANNER OF RICHARD COSWAY RA (1742-1821), A Portrait Miniature of a Lady

Late 18th Century

Medium: watercolour on ivory set in a gilt-silver frame with diamond paste border

H 7 cm


More information

This late-eighteenth-century portrait miniature is an elegant display of Regency England, a period known in history for its flourishing extravagance of Georgian England. The sitter’s identity is currently unknown, though she appears to be a young lady perhaps aged around 20. She wears a white floaty dress with delicate lace trim, her hair is powdered whilst partially swept in an up-style fashion and loose curls gently fall to frame her face. She sits before a beige-grey background that offers an air of simplicity.

The portrait is set within a silver-gilt frame that is surrounded by a diamond paste border, with a paper label on the reverse inscribed with ‘Lady…’ indistinctly. 

Though the artist is unknown, it seems that they were heavily influenced by the French Rococo decorative style, which was characterised by its sense of rhythm and freedom. This can be seen in the application of paint that appears luminous with her skin radiating a pearlescent quality, and from her curling hair to the white frills of her dress, it may be said that this portrait captures a graceful spontaneity of frivolity.

Within eighteenth-century England, portrait miniatures grew in popularity, just as the general wealth of the country also increased and perpetuated a revival for the art form. Richard Cosway, R.A. (1742? -1821) was integral to the revival and known for his close association with the frivolous period of Regency England. One may infer that the artist of this particular portrait was strongly influenced by the works of Cosway, and this is suggested in the handling of style and subject matter. 

The early provenance of this portrait is unknown though it has been within a private collection for over 30 years in South Kensington, and prior to this in a private collection in Cornwall.

Foskett, D., MacLehose, R. & Co., Ltd, British Portrait Miniatures (University Press, Glasgow, 1963).
Lloyd, S., Richard Cosway (Unicorn Press, London, 2005).
Mercer, E., ed., Boase T. S. R., English Art: 1553-1625 (Oxford University Press, 1962).
Walker, R., Miniatures: A selection of miniatures in the Ashmolean Museum (Craft Print Pte Lt, Oxford, 1997).
Walker, R., Miniatures: 300 years of the English Miniature Illustrated from the Collections of the National Portrait Gallery (National Portrait Gallery Publications, 1998).