John Bowman, Langford House, Clifton, Bristol, 1880;
Anonymous sale, London, Christie's, 19 March 1904, lot 107 to Rutley;
With Agnew's, London;
Purchased from the above in c.1905 by Frederick David Sassoon (1853-1917) for 2650 gns.;
Frederick David Sassoon (1853-1917)
By descent to his daughter Mrs. Paul Wallraf, formerly Muriel Ezra, first wife of Alfred Ezra OBE of Foxwarren Park, Cobham, Surrey;
By descent to Mrs. Raymond Sawyer, née Ruth Ezra, of Chestnut Lodge, Cobham, Surrey.
Mezzotint by J. Spilsbury, 1768 (as 'The Beautiful Florist')
A striking beauty, well known to contemporaries for her good looks and Spanish origins, the sitter was stated in 1856 to be the wife of a Mr. Richards, first violinist of the Drury Lane Theatre Orchestra. This is probably David Richards (d.1802), who is recorded playing at Drury Lane, as well as the Theatre Royal in Bristol.1 The manager of Drury Lane was Gainsborough's close friend, the actor and producer David Garrick, and it was presumably through Garrick that Mrs. Richards was introduced to the artist. The picture was painted in 1768, at the height of Gainsborough's period in Bath, one year before he was invited to become a foundation member of the Royal Academy. It successfully captures the fluidity and boldness of his portraits of this period and shows the artist moving away from the primitive realism of his Ipswich years towards the soft elegant grandeur that characterises his later work. Derived from van Dyck, this new approach was marked by a distinctive bravura technique and freedom of brushwork that anticipates the work of the impressionists, imbuing his sitter's with a glamour that would become the hallmark of British Grand Manner portraiture.
We are grateful to Hugh Belsey for his assistance in the cataloguing of this lot.
1. See P. Highfill Jr, K. A. Burman and E. Langhans, A Biographical Dictionary of Actors . . . Carbondale & Edwardsville, 16 volumes 1973–1993, XII, pp. 355–56.
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