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.


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Artist
Sir Joshua Reynolds, English, 1723–1792
Title
Portrait of Mrs. Jelf Powis and her Daughter
Date
1777
Medium
Oil on canvas
Dimensions
Image: 93 × 57 in. (236.2 × 144.8 cm)
Credit Line

Sarah Campbell Blaffer Foundation, Houston

Current Location
The Audrey Jones Beck Building
218 BLAFFER GALLERIES
Accession Number
BF.1985.7
Classification
Painting
Provenance

Commissioned in 1777 by Mrs. Thomas Jelf Powis; not paid for, remaining in the artist’s possession until his death in 1792; Greenwood’s, London, Reynolds sale, April 16, 1796, lot 41; purchased by “Dodge”, probably for Basil Fielding, 6th Earl of Denbigh (1719–1800); by descent, Rudolph Fielding, 8th Earl of Denbigh (1823–1892); Charles John Wertheimer (1842–1911), 1891; Sir George A. Cooper, Baronet (1856–1940), by 1912; by descent; sale, Christie’s, London, July 16 1982, lot 73; purchased by Noortman & Brod Gallery; [P. & D. Colnaghi & Co., London]; purchased by the Sarah Campbell Blaffer Foundation, 1985.