Master Works on Paper from Five Centuries

Master Works on Paper from Five Centuries

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 42. Study of a girl in a turban with pompom and frilled collar.

Property of a lady

Joseph Wright of Derby, A.R.A.

Study of a girl in a turban with pompom and frilled collar

Auction Closed

January 26, 04:31 PM GMT


70,000 - 90,000 USD

Lot Details


Property of a lady

Joseph Wright of Derby, A.R.A.

Derby 1734 - 1797

Study of a girl in a turban with pompom and frilled collar

Black and white chalk and stump, on gray paper;

bears inscription on an old label attached to the backboard: C H Turner

438 by 292 mm; 17¼ by 11½ in.

Possibly a member of the Tate family of Liverpool;
Miss A. Loughlin;
sale, London, Sotheby’s, 19 March 1981, lot 153;
with Spink’s, London;
where acquired by the present owner and her late husband
B. Nicholson, Joseph Wright of Derby, London 1968, pp. 7, 19;
J. Egerton, Wright of Derby, London 1990, p. 136, no. 72;
E. Barker and A. Kidson, Joseph Wright of Derby in Liverpool, New Haven, 2007, p. 166-7, no. 40;
N. Jeffares, Dictionary of pastellists until 1800, on-line edition, no. J.806.126

In this beautiful and sensitively drawn portrait, Wright captures a young girl, whose soft features are modelled through a masterful use of chiaroscuro. Her expression is one of delicacy and feminine grace and the strong sense of physical presence indicates that the likeness must have been taken from life.

The work is one of a group of monochrome portraits that were drawn by Wright between 1768 and 1771. During this period he was living in Liverpool and lodging with the merchant Richard Tate. Tate’s family was deeply involved in the arts. Richard himself was an amateur artist, his brother William trained as a portraitist, while his son Thomas Moss became Wright’s friend and pupil. A copy of the present portrait, probably by Thomas Moss Tate, still exists and it has been suggested that a member of his family originally owned Wright’s drawing.1

The identity of the sitter has remained elusive. When the work was sold at Sotheby’s in 1981 it was proposed that she might represent the artist’s sister, Anne. She was, however, born in 1739 and would therefore have been significantly older than the girl in the present work. More recently, Elizabeth Barker has argued that the portrait may depict either Mary or Peggy Turner, who were born in 1757 and 1759 respectively and were the daughters of Dr Matthew Turner, an important member of the literary and arts community in Liverpool. The existence of an old label that remains attached to the backboard of the present work and reads C.H. Turner, adds weight to this theory.

It is universally agreed that these chalk drawings were executed as finished, independent works of art. However, the sitter in the present sheet does conjure up echoes of details in two of Wright’s oil paintings. Her frilled and fringed collar reappears on the young students in An Academy by Lamplight (1769),2 while the same style of clothing also features in his Two Girls Dressing a Kitten by Candlelight (circa 1770).3

Only seven of Wright's portraits of this type are known to have survived. Two are in private collections while the remaining five can be found at in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, the Speed Art Museum, Kentucky and the Metropolitan Museum, New York. All have the same contemplative, tranquil air of the present work and the same confident handling and extraordinary quality.4

1. Formerly in the collection of Henry Reitlinger

2. B. Nicholson, op. cit., p. 37, pl. 60 3.

3. E. Barker and A. Kidson, op. cit., p. 53, no. 17

4. Sale, London, Sotheby's, 14 July 2014, lot 52 Portrait of a boy reading; Young man in a turban (with Guy Peppiatt Fine Art, London until 2020); Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge: Woman in exotic costume, possibly Polly or Peggy Turner (inv. no. PD. 128-1991); the Art Institute of Chicago: Self-portrait in a fur cap (inv. no. 1990-141); Yale Center for British: Head of a man, probably Peter Perez (inv. no. B1977.14.6320); the Speed Art Museum, Kentucky: Man in exotic costume, possibly Richard of William Tate (inv. no. 1963.30); Metropolitan Museum, New York: Portrait of a woman (inv. no. 2007.40)