The Irish artist Hugh Douglas Hamilton is most often associated with small, delicate oval head studies and portraits, but he also made a handful of spectacular full-length pastel portraits, and some half-size full-lengths such as the present drawing. It has been thought that these larger works date from after Hamilton’s time in Rome, and the rest of Italy, from around 1779 to 1791, but Neil Jeffares has suggested that they were begun, or at least considered, before his travels. Certainly his time in Italy saw the popularity of his small-scale full-lengths increase, and these, like the present work, tend to be delicate and highly finished.
The sitter here has not been identified, but the classical column she leans against, and the building seen through the window (although likely imaginary) suggest that she may well have sat for Hamilton in Rome, and that the portrait may have been intended to celebrate and record her time there. Whilst it was unusual for women to undertake a Grand Tour (and Grand Tourists made up much of Hamilton’s clientele), he had travelled to Rome with his wife, Mary, and his social circle of expatriates did include many women, of whom this is likely to be one.
We are grateful to Neil Jeffares for his assistance in preparing this catalogue entry.