Monday, August 8, 2011

New Gainsborough Self-Portrait?

This weekend I was alerted to this article thanks to M from Alberti's Window.  To summarize: art historian, Stephen Conrad bought a miniature at an auction, struck by the familiar face.  He now believes that he is in possession of Thomas Gainsborough's first self-portrait.  Conrad's evidence is the uncanny likeness and the fact that the miniature is painted in Sudbury around 1736/7 when Gainsborough would have been about ten years old.  Conrad's suspicions seemed founded when on the back in a "childish script" was written, "Gainsboro."  

Now could this sitter be a young Gainsborough? Absolutely.  The facial features are congruent with Gainsborough's self-portraits.  Is this a self-portrait? I highly doubt it.

When I first read the article Gainsborough's 1754 self-portrait immediately popped into my head.  Painted when Gainsborough was in his late teens, this unfinished work shows how Gainsborough's proficiency was still developing.  The skill demonstrated in the miniature seems much more honed than that of the 1754 portrait which was done by a young man who had studied art in London for about five years.

The other peculiar thing about this newly revealed painting is the sitter's eyes.  From what I can tell, they are brown.  If we look at Gainsborough's self-portrait from 1787 two blue eyes are looking at us.  Supposed portraits of Marie Antoinette have been disproved merely by incorrect eye color. 

I am curious to see where this discovery will go.  What do you think?

3 comments:

Retro Blog said...

Er good job on the eyebrows!

Anonymous said...

The eyes are dark, and not brown. So are those of all the self-portraits! Did you bother to read the evidence gathered and published in the British Art Journal? How can you decide on the basis of an incomplete newspaper photograph or a blog?

Heather Carroll said...

Anonymous, I am writing a blog, not a scholarly journal article so I can express my initial opinions upon reading a newspaper article.