Lot 196
  • 196

Sir Joshua Reynolds, P.R.A.

50,000 - 70,000 GBP
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  • Sir Joshua Reynolds, P.R.A.
  • Nancy Reynolds with Doves
  • oil on canvas


Possibly commissioned by Sir William Hamilton (1731-1803), according to the catalogue for the Boothby sale in 1815;
Probably the picture purchased by Sir William Boothby, 4th Bt. (1721-1787), in whose collection a portrait of Nancy Reynolds was recorded in a letter by Reynolds in 1772 (possibly addressed to Hamilton);
Probably by inheritance to his cousin, Sir Brooke Boothby, 5th Bt. (1710-1789);
Probably by descent to his son, Sir Brooke Boothby, 6th Bt. (1744-1824);
Probably the picture in his sale, London, Christie's, 16 February 1815, lot 29 (where it was described as having been painted for Sir William Hamilton), in the catalogue for which is a note that it was bought in. According to Graves and Cronin however it was bought by Alleyne FitzHerbert, 1st Baron St Helens (1753-1839), perhaps after the sale. This provenance is endorsed by Waterhouse, who also suggested that it may have been burned in a fire at Lord St Helen's London house;
Depending on whether this is true or not, according to Graves and Cronin it was bequeathed by Lord St. Helens, in 1839, to his nephew, Sir Henry FitzHerbert, 3rd Bt. Alternatively it could be the picture owned by Henry Gally Knight, exhibited in 1823 (see exhibition details), and bequeathed by him, together with Nettleworth Hall, to his cousin, Sir Henry FitzHerbert, 3rd Bt.;
Sir Henry FitzHerbert, 3rd Bt. (1783-1858);
By descent to Rev. Sir William FitzHerbert, 4th Bt. (1808-1896), Nettleworth Manor, Mansfield, who lent this picture to Leeds in 1868;
Thence by descent to the present owner.


Perhaps London, British Institution, 1823, no. 61 (as 'A Lady with Doves', lent by Henry Gally Knight, whose mother, Selina FitzHerbert, was Lord St Helen's sister);
Leeds, City Art Gallery, National Exhibition of Works of Art, 1868, no. 1056 (as a 'Portrait of Kitty Fisher', lent by Sir W. FitzHerbert);
Derby, Drill Hall, Midland Counties Exhibition, 1870, no. 801 (as 'Nancy Reynolds');
London, Royal Academy, 1879, no. 48 (as 'Kitty Reynolds');
Birmingham, Museum and Art Gallery, Works of Art from Midland Houses, 1953, no. 60 (as 'Nancy Reynolds with Doves').


A. Graves and W. V. Cronin, A History of the Works of Sir Joshua Reynolds, 4 vols., London 1899-1901, vol. II, pp. 820-21;
E. K. Waterhouse, 'Some notes on the exhibition "Works of Art from Midland Houses" at Birmingham,' in Burlington Magazine, vol. XCV, 1953, p. 306;
D. Mannings, Sir Joshua Reynolds; A complete catalogue of his paintings, New Haven and London 2000, text volume, p. 391, no. 1518, illustrated, plates volume, p. 365, fig. 839. 


The painting appears to be in good overall condition, with no extant damage or loss of paint. The catalogue illustration is representative, though the colours are a little stronger than they appear. The canvas has a firm lining, however there is still strong impasto in the white highlights. There is some bitumen separation in the dark pigments of the background, which has resulted in a pronounced craquelure in this area. The craquelure is minor, though prevalent, and stable and does not overly detract from the aesthetics of the picture. Examination under ultraviolet light reveals at least two campaigns of restoration. There is a small amount of minor old infilling to craquelure in the hair and the background, upper right, some minor strengthening to the sitter's jaw and nos. There is also infilling to craquelure in the flesh tones of the sitter's chest and arm, as well as running through the costume, and there is some retouching to the edge of the right shoulder, and down the sleeve. There is what appears to be some more recent minor infilling to craquelure in the sitter's neck and in the wings of the dove. There is also some minor retouching to the edges of the canvas in places, and scattered very minor flecks of retouching overall. Despite the bitumen and the minor retouching the picture appears to be in good condition, particularly the central figure, and would probably respond well to sensitive restoration and cleaning. Held in a gilded wooden frame with moulded detailing in the corners and central sections. To speak to a specialist about this lot please contact Julian Gascoigne on +44 (0)207 293 5482.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

By tradition the sitter in this beautiful portrait was the mistress of Sir William Boothby, 4th Bt. As Waterhouse noted, the composition is inspired by Carlo Dolci's figure of Salome with the head of St John the Baptist in the Royal Collection. Waterhouse also suggested that it might have been conceived as a retrospective companion piece to the Portrait of Kitty Fisher as Cleopatra at Kenwood.

The history of the picture has been complicated by the fact that the sitter has been variously identified as Nancy Reynolds, Kitty Fisher or simply a Lady with Doves, at various times in the past. Two payments are recorded by Sir William Boothby for a portrait of Nancy Reynolds in the artist's ledger. One of 25 gns. between 20 May and 11 October 1765, and a second of £26.15s was made sometime before 21 February 1774. In a letter dated 16 August 1772 to an unidentified person, Reynolds refers to the portrait, commenting ' I forgot to ask you when I had the honour of seeing you last about Nancy Reynolds's Picture, it is at present in the possession of Sir Wm Boothby who would be very glad to keep it. He had it on condition to return it to you if it was demanded.'1 If the statement in the 1815 sale catalogue (see above) is correct then Reynolds could have been writing to Sir William Hamilton (1731-1803), who was in London in 1772 and sat to the artist at about this date. The picture was certainly in the collection of Sir William FitzHerbert (1808-1896) by 1868, when he lent it to the Leeds exhibition (as is confirmed by a label attached to the back of the stretcher). Sir William inherited the picture from his father, Sir Henry, 3rd Bt. who could either have been bequeathed it by his uncle, Lord St Helens, or his first cousin, Henry Gally Knight.

1. J. Reynolds, Letters, edited by F. W. Hilles, Cambridge 1929, p. 31.