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Portrait of a Woman in Blue

Portrait of a Woman in Blue

c. 1700

Peter Cross

(British, c. 1645-1724)

Watercolor on vellum in original ivory frame

Framed: 9.2 x 7.3 cm (3 5/8 x 2 7/8 in.); Sight: 8.2 x 6.4 cm (3 1/4 x 2 1/2 in.)

The Edward B. Greene Collection 1941.554

Location

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This miniature is in its original ivory frame, stained a mottled brown to imitate tortoise shell.

Description

Living in London, the youngest of seven children, Peter Cross was probably apprenticed to a limner following the death of his wealthy father. His first miniatures date from around 1661, and he remained active until his death, ushering the medium into the eighteenth century; the greatest British miniaturists working during his lifetime, all had died or ceased to work by 1700. Although ivory had been adopted as a support for British miniature painting a decade before his death, Cross exclusively used the older medium of vellum adhered to card. The artist was also an avid collector, assembling an impressive group of miniatures that included at least twelve works by his neighbor Samuel Cooper. This collection was sold in 1722 at Cross’s house in Covent Garden.
Cross’s style is distinguished by a fi ne stippling of colors that combine to create soft, voluminous hair and pale flesh tones. His later works tend to leave the prepared white ground of the vellum bare—coincidentally, a strategy that was adopted by artists painting miniatures on ivory to exploit the support’s translucence. The details of his early instruction are still obscure, but some scholars have postulated that Cooper trained Cross, whereas others note a greater resemblance to the style of Hoskins, and still others detect a similarity to French stippling and suggest that he may have been trained
overseas.
The artist depicted the unknown sitter almost full face before a plain gray background with her head turned slightly to the right. She dons a white gown trimmed with ruffles at the neckline and a bright blue mantle over her right shoulder. Her powdered hair is swept up and loosely covered either by the blue mantle or a scarf of the same color.

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