Monday, October 31, 2011

Gainesborough- new information

Several years ago, the Art Museum was given a lovely Gainsborough portrait whose subject “Mrs. Browne” was unknown to us. Now, through the work of a scholar in England, we are learning more about this portrait!

We recently received this email from a scholar working on a catalogue raisonne:

“The earliest publish sources describe the sitter in your portrait as Miss Browne and indeed she cannot be a portrait of the wife of the sitter in the pendant portrait as Francis John Browne (1754–1833) was not married until 1796, eight years after the artist's death. Browne's youngest sister, his only siblings living into the 1780s, was Susannah Browne (1766–1783) and the two portraits must have been painted very shortly before her death.

Portraits of siblings are quite rare and Gainsborough (at least) treats these pendant portraits in an interesting way, making the socially superior sitter more confident and its companion more diffident. As you probably know the pendant portrait of Mr Browne is in the National Gallery of Zimbabwe in Harare, so, sadly, it seems unlikely that they will be reunited.”

Image: THOMAS GAINSBOROUGH, Portrait of Mrs. Francis John Browne, circa 1780s, oil on canvas, gift of the Frederick Leas Van Lennep family.

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