Feb 19, 2013
Feb 7, 2005
Oct 7, 2009
May 6, 2011
Feb 19, 2013
Feb 19, 2013

Portrait of a Woman

Portrait of a Woman

c. 1775

John I Smart

(British, 1741-1811)

Gray and red wash over graphite, heightened with white gouache on laid paper

Support: Beige(1) laid paper, discolored to yellow-brown, laid down on light brown wove paper

Sheet: 5.4 x 4.7 cm (2 1/8 x 1 7/8 in.); Secondary Support: 5.3 x 4.8 cm (2 1/16 x 1 7/8 in.)

Bequest of Mrs. A. Dean Perry 1997.82

Location

Did you know?

Mrs. A. Dean Perry, who donated this drawing to CMA, is the granddaughter of one of the museum’s founding members, Jeptha Homer Wade II.

Description

This portrait was assigned the historically colorful but fictitious title of “Anne of Denmark” at some point after memory of its true identity had been lost. Giving illustrious titles to portraits of unknown sitters was a popular strategy adopted by dealers during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, often applied to miniature portraits and, in particular, to Smart’s sketches of women. Only the sitter’s head and neck are drawn, and a low-necked dress is faintly suggested. Her head is turned to the left, and her brown hair is dressed high, with flat curls against the back of her head. A lightly drawn veil falls over the back of the hair and shoulders. The sitter’s sagging jaw line and the lines beneath her blue-green eyes
suggest that she was painted as a mature woman. The sketch is generally faded, and the background is unpainted. The finished ivory miniature for which this drawing was presumably a preparatory sketch has not yet been discovered.
The sitter’s identification has been based on a later inscription in graphite on the verso of the paper backing. When the paper backing was removed from the back of the drawing in 2011, an inscription in brown ink in the artist’s hand was discovered. The writing appears to be a fragment, created when the small rectangle containing the portrait was cut from a larger sheet. It reads, “to be set[?] in . . . / and put in a Black / Frame largest . . . / [G . . .’s?] Size.” Above this, “very dark brown hair” is written in graphite.

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