PROPERTY FROM A DISTINGUISHED PRIVATE COLLECTION
In 1774, Gainsborough leased the west wing of Schomberg House at 80 Pall Mall. He built a painting room over the garden with a salon above that served as his showroom. Following disagreements with the Royal Academy over the hanging of his pictures, he finally broke from them in 1784 and held an inaugural exhibition at Schomberg House in July of that year. There he could have full control over how his pictures were hung and lit. His first exhibition included ten full-length portraits, twelve half or three-quarter lengths, and a selection of landscapes and subject pictures. The present portrait seems to be the portrait of “Mrs Crofts” exhibited that year.
The sitter was the daughter and co-heiress of George Wanley Bowes of Thornton Hall, County Durham and Eyford, Gloucestershire, and his wife, Anne, daughter of John Hutton of Marske. On 28 August 1779, she married Robert Nicholas Croft, a member of an old established Yorkshire family which lived at Stillington Hall. Robert Croft settled at Aldborough Hall and became Canon Residentiary of St. Peter’s Cathedral, York and Prebendary of Botevant. The Crofts had three sons who all followed their father into the church. The eldest, James, became Archdeacon of Canterbury and married Charlotte, daughter of the Rev. Charles Manners Sutton, Archbishop of Canterbury.
This painting will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the portraits of Thomas Gainsborough by Hugh Belsey.
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