Elizabeth Courtenay, Lady Charles Somerset, d. 1815
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Elizabeth Courtenay, Lady Charles Somerset, d. 1815

On Display PORTRAIT GALLERY

This miniature is a typical example of the mature portraits painted by Cosway. Cosway exploited the luminous qualities of the ivory support, a material commonly used in miniatures for this reason, and also developed his own unique compositional and technical traits that made his portraits notably alluring and flattering. These included the enlargement of the eyes in proportion to the rest of the head and body. In addition, Cosway pioneered a bravura technique that contrasted delicate stipple painting in the face with more linear and expressive brushwork for the hair, body and sky. In 1788 Elizabeth Courtenay eloped with and secretly married Lord Charles Henry Somerset. It is very likely that this miniature was commissioned from the artist to mark the couple’s marriage.

Glossary Open

Commission

When an individual or organisation employs an artist to execute a particular project, the process and the resulting work are termed a ‘commission’.

Miniature

A painting or drawing, usually a portrait, on a very small scale. These were popular prior to the invention of photographic portraits in the 19th century.

Stippling

A process of creating an image by covering the surface of the work in dots, the technique is also used to produce a textured surface for decorative effect.

Commission, Miniature, Stippling

Details

  • Acc. No. PGL 395 A
  • Medium Watercolour on ivory in gold frame
  • Size Height: 3.00 in.; Height: 7.60 cm
  • Credit Long loan in 1999