Margaret Gainsborough (1751-1820), the artist's daughter;
by descent to the artist's great-nephew, Richard James Lane (1800-1872);
by descent to his daughter Emily Lane (b. 1839);
by whom given to Sir Charles Archibald Nicholson, Bt. (1867-1949), March 1916 (letter attached);
bequeathed by his son to John Samuel Richardson, Baron Richardson, L.V.O. (1910-2004);
his sale, London, Sotheby's, 12 March 1987, lot 39
where bought by the present owner
This drawing has been dated by Hugh Belsey to circa 1760, the year after Gainsborough moved from Ipswich to fashionable Bath. With a supremely confident and fluid line, befitting a master draftsman, Gainsborough depicts a strikingly beautiful lady, holding a letter and glazing reflectively out at the viewer.
Although the sitter has not been identified, she bears a strong resemblance to the lady depicted in Gainsborough's A Woman Holding a Shawl1 (Pierpont Morgan Library, New York) and A Woman Seated in a Landscape2 (Frick Collection, New York). Gainsborough has clearly delighted in the depiction of his sitter's costume. He shows her with her hair swept back, wearing a simple lace bonnet, a ribbon around her neck and a silk dress, which is composed of curving serpentine folds, floral patterns and silk bows. The dress can be compared to those seen in the above mentioned drawing in the Frick Collection and in Gainsborough's A Woman Seated (British Museum, London).3
The present work is one of a group of delightful figure drawings which descended from the artist's daughter, Margaret, to Richard James Lane, Gainsborough's great-nephew. Whereas most of his collection was sold at Christie's in 1831, this drawing was retained in the Lane family. In 1916 the work was given by Emily Lane to her friend Sir Charles Nicholas, Bt. A letter which remains attached to the backboard explains the gift: '38 Inglis Road. March 1916 / My dear Charlie / It is my proud privi- / lege, as a relation of Gains- / borough, to offer you one of / his sketches, which I hope / you will like as much as / I do; so I send it to the / "half way house" for you / to claim. With much love / to you & all, I am / Yours affectionate [sic] / Emily Lane'.
We would like to thank Hugh Belsey for his assistance in cataloguing this drawing.
1. J. Hayes, The Drawings of Thomas Gainsborough, London 1970, no. 24, pl. 79
2. Ibid., no. 18, pl. 78
3. Ibid, no. 20
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