Lot 54
  • 54

Joseph Wright of Derby, A.R.A.

60,000 - 80,000 USD
100,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Joseph Wright of Derby, A.R.A.
  • Portrait of a young lady
  • oil on canvas
  • 30 by 25 in.; 76.2 by 63.5 cm.


Anonymous sale, London, Christie's, 25 February 1949, lot 112, for 45 Guineas, to Bier;1
With Newhouse Galleries, New York (as a "Portrait of Miss Elizabeth Wright, daughter of the artist");
From whom acquired in 1952 by Elizabeth M. Heidenkamp Thomas, Pittsburgh;
Thence by descent to the present owner.

Catalogue Note

This beguiling portrait of a young lady was painted by Wright in circa 1758-1760, a period when the artist was just beginning his independent career, but still showing the influence of his teacher Thomas Hudson. Wright began his formal artistic studies in Hudson’s studio in London in 1751, around the time of his 17th birthday.  He returned to his home town of Derby in 1753, where he painted portraits of family members and friends.  However, not being satisfied with his work, he went back to Hudson’s studio and remained there another fifteen months.  Following this second period of training, in circa 1756-57, Wright rapidly established his portrait-painting practice and his local reputation grew quickly.  In 1760, around the time this portrait was painted, Wright embarked on a tour of neighboring Midland towns, painting portraits of local middle class families and landed gentry.

In this portrait, Wright perfectly captures the poise and charm of his sitter, who stares out at us with a remarkable confidence that belies her youth. She wears a blue satin gown with strung pearls woven around the bodice and sleeves, and entwined in her hair.  This particular fashion can be seen in another portrait of the same period by Wright of Miss Catton (or Cotton) in the collection of the Saint Louis Art Museum (Inv. 3:1930).  When the present portrait was with Newhouse Galleries in the early 1950s (see Provenance), it was said to be a portrait of Elizabeth Wright, the artist’s daughter.  However, Wright did not marry until 1773 and his surviving daughters were Anna and Harriet.

1.  Benedict Nicolson, in his monograph on Wright’s paintings (Joseph Wright of Derby, Painter of Light, London 1968) lists this sale under his cat. no. 159 which is a different picture.  However, in the photographic archives of The Witt Library, The Courtauld Institute, London, the present portrait is identified as the one sold in the Christie's, London, 1949 sale.