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.
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