Despite this success with the brush, he loved to draw and regarded his works on paper as an important part of his oeuvre. These drawings were much admired by his contemporaries and his friend William Jackson (d. 1830) went as far as to declare that: ‘If I were to rest his [Gainsborough’s] reputation upon one point it should be on his drawings. No man ever possessed methods so various in producing effect, and all were excellent.’1
Stylistically the present lot has been compared to Gainsborough’s Portrait of Carl Fredrick Abel, a drawing that also dates to the early 1760s and is now in the National Portrait Gallery, London.2 Lindsey Stainton and Dr. Hayes have also highlighted that the work is perhaps ‘as close as Gainsborough ever came to the French style of rustic galanterie’,3 a genre mastered by artists such as François Boucher.
This drawing was completely unknown to scholars until its appearance at auction at Sotheby’s in 1975, where it was sold by the estate of Henry Scipio Reitlinger. Reitlinger was a passionate collector of ceramics, paintings, prints and drawings. After his death in 1950, much of his collection was given to the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. The drawing's early provenance is unknown but it has been suggested that it may have descended through the artist’s family to his daughter Margaret. Her collection was dispersed at Christie’s in 1831. The work was acquired in 1977 by the late Colin Hunter, a distinguished collector of British drawings.
We are grateful to Hugh Belsey, M.B.E. for his help in cataloguing this lot.
1. J. Hayes and L. Stainton, Gainsborough Drawings, exh. cat., Washington 1983, p. 15
2. ibid., p. 86
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