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The Estate of Carol Browning and Edmund Wattis Dumke

Portrait of a girl, bust-length

Portrait of a girl, bust-length
oil on canvas
16 ¼ x 13 1/8 in. (41.3 x 33.3 cm.)
Lady Eva Dugdale (1860-1940), London.
Henry Yates Thompson (1838-1928), London; his deceased sale, Sotheby's, London, 2 July 1941, lot 204, as J.B. Greuze.
Private collection, United States.
with Newhouse Galleries, New York, where acquired by the present owner in 1985.
A. Graves, A Century of Loan Exhibitions, 1813-1912, I, London, 1913, p. 450, no. 174.
H. Yates Thompson, An Illustrated Catalogue of Pictures and Portraits now at 19 Portman Square, London, 1921, p. 10, pl. VI.
London, Grafton Galleries, Fair Children, 1895, no. 174.
Nottingham Art Museum (according to a label on the reverse).

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Lot Essay

Sensitively executed with a luminous palette, this delightful bust of a child in a white satin blouse is characteristic of the many têtes d’expression that Greuze produced from the 1760s onwards, and that were a source of the tremendous popularity he enjoyed in his lifetime. The image displays the artist’s deeply felt and well-observed ability to capture the fleeting expressions and individual character of children. With her hair tied back with a bright blue ribbon, the child gazes out of the picture frame, seemingly fixated on a person she loves or some object of affection which brings a serene smile to her face. Painted with fluid and energetic brushstrokes, the painting immerses the child in an atmosphere of cool, soft light and gentle, enveloping shadows. The beauty of Greuze’s handling of paint, his effortless mastery of anatomy and his profound insight into human emotion seemed something entirely new and remarkable to 18th-century critics and public alike, more authentic and insightful than the works of any of his contemporaries. Indeed, Diderot would praise these very qualities in writing about a similar painting in the Salon of 1765: 'What truth! What tonal variety! And these red blotches, who hasn't seen them on the faces of children who are cold or in pain from teeth coming in? And these tearful eyes and these blond tresses on her forehead, all mused, they're so light and one wants to push them back under her cap. Monsieur Drouais, come here, do you see this child? She's made of flesh. For truth and vitality of color, a little Rubens'.

This portrait was formerly in the collection of Lady Eva Dugdale of Snitterfield Hose, Stratford on Avon. The daughter of George Greville, 4th Earl of Warwick, she was Lady-in-Waiting to the Duchess of York (later Queen Mary). The portrait subsequently entered the collection of Henry Yates Thompson, one of the late 19th- and early 20th-century's great bibliophiles and collectors of medieval manuscripts. Yates was the proprietor of the Pall Mall Gazette which his father-in-law made over to him in 1880. Newspaper ownership evidently gave him little reward and in 1892 he sold the firm, not unprofitably, to William Waldorf Astor. He married in 1878, Elizabeth, daughter of George Smith, founder of the Dictionary of National Biography. They lived at 19 Portman Square and Oving, Buckinghamshire. A group of forty-six illuminated manuscripts was left by his wife to the British Museum, known as the Yates Thompson collection (A. Bell, 'Thompson, Henry Yates (1838-1928)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford, 2004).

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