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Arts of Europe

The MFAH collections of art created on the European continent encompass artistic styles across the time line of history, from the ancient world to the Middle Ages, and the Early Modern era to the 21st century.

English, 1723 - 1792
Portrait of Mrs. Jelf Powis and Her Daughter
Oil on canvas

93 x 57 inches

Sarah Campbell Blaffer Foundation, Houston
Arts of Europe

Joshua Reynolds was the most influential artist—and one of the most important portrait painters—in 18th-century England. As first president of the Royal Academy in London, he was in a unique position to promote and elevate the status of artists and art in Britain. In his lectures, he urged that modern painting, even portraiture, be based on antique prototypes.

Reynolds seems to have followed his own precept in this portrait: the painter "dresses his figure something with the general air of the antique for the sake of dignity, and preserves something of the modern for the sake of likeness." Although the sitters for this portrait visited Reynolds’s studio several times, the final payment was never made. The painting remained in the artist’s studio until his death.