Miss Theodosia Magill (1744-1817), afterwards Countess of Clanwilliam 1765


This portrait was painted to celebrate Theodosia Magill's marriage to Sir John Meade in 1765. The work dates from Gainsborough's period in Bath 1759-74, during which he developed a portrait style which combined the elegance of Van Dyck with his own more informal approach. These traits can be seen in the overall elegance of the picture (note the richness of the costume and the play of light on the material) and the pose of the sitter, who confronts the spectator full-face, with an air of informality and welcome. The museum also owns a portrait of Theodosia by Sir Joshua Reynolds. The contrast between this work and that by Reynolds is a striking illustration of the different approaches to portraiture taken by both artists. For Gainsborough, the catching of a likeness was 'the principal beauty and intention of a portrait,' whilst Reynolds, on the other hand, held 'mere likeness' in low esteem and sought to intellectualise his works by including references to classical antiquity. It is possible that Gainsborough's work was intended to be hung in a family room, unlike Reynolds's portrait, which,with its atmosphere of dignity and reserve, was perhaps destined for a grand reception room or staircase.

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National Museums NI’s Picture Library provides quality prints from our art, history and science collections. Featured collections include the Harland & Wolff Titanic photographs, the Welch photographs taken of Belfast in the early 1900’s and our extensive range of William Conor images from our art collection.

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