Thomas Gainsborough painted Mrs. William Monck during the first few years of his residence in the fashionable resort of Bath. Here he established a thriving studio practice specializing in portraiture. His technically accomplished “face paintings,” as he called them, provide a glimpse of the lives of the eighteenth-century English gentry. The sitters are studies in casual elegance, immaculately groomed and fashionably attired. They gaze out toward the viewer with a calm complacency. Painted with an effortless brio, Gainsborough’s elegant portrait of Mrs. Monck, born Dorothy Bligh, is an illustration of his ability to create an incisively intimate analysis of his sitter.
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- Titles Mrs. William Monck (Proper)
- Artist Thomas Gainsborough, British, born Sudbury, Suffolk 1727 - died 1788, London
- Medium oil on canvas
- Dimensions 29 3/4 × 24 3/4 in. (75.6 × 62.9 cm) frame: 38 1/8 × 33 × 2 3/4 in. (96.8 × 83.8 × 7 cm)
- Credit Line Gift from the William Hansell and Susan Mabry Hulsey Collection, 2000.184
- Work Type painting
- Classification Paintings
- On View
- Signature Unsigned
- Marks None
- Inscription Verso, strainer, printed label: Thos. Agnew & Sons. Ltd. / No. 16049 / Fine Art Publishers to H. M. The King / London / 43, Old Bond Street / Piccadilly, W.
- Provenance Nephew of the sitter, John Bligh (1719-1781), Third Earl of Darnley, Cobham Hall [see note 1]. Auctioned at Important Pictures by Old Masters: The Property of Rt. Hon. the Earl of Darnley removed from Cobham Hall, Christie, Manson & Woods, London, May 1, 1925, lot 19 [see note 2]; purchased by H. W. Arthurton as agent for Sir Edward Hulton (1869-1925), London [see note 3]. Dealer Agnew & Sons, London, 1953 [see note 4]. Private collection, London [see note 5]; dealer Newhouse Galleries, New York; purchased by William Hansell Hulsey (1901-1985) and Susan Mabry Hulsey (1905-2000), Birmingham, Alabama, April 30, 1969; gift to the Birmingham Museum of Art, Alabama, 2000
1. Newhouse provided the provenance of “brother of the sitter, John Bligh (1687-1725), First Earl of Darnley” at the time of sale to William Hulsey and Susan Hulsey. However, the First Earl of Darnley was deceased at the time that 2000.184 was painted around 1760 to 1765. The sitter’s nephew, John Bligh, Third Earl of Darnley, is the only Earl of Darnley whose life dates allow for him to own the painting dated from about 1760 to about 1765.
2. The painting remained at Cobham Hall, the seat of the Earldom of Darnley, until 1925 indicating that the painting stayed in the possession of the holder of the Earldom.
3. Annotated auction catalogue found in object file lists “Arthurton” as the buyer. Waterhouse, Ellis K. Gainsborough. London: Edward Hulton, 1958, p.91, no. 489 lists the painting as “bt. for Edward Hulton” at that sale. Edward Hulton was the publisher of Waterhouse 1958. This annotated auction catalog is owned by Howard Mather of Wykeham Books in London, UK.
4. Agnew & Sons stock no. 16049 printed on label on stretcher. The year comes from Waterhouse 1958, no. 489.
5. According to information provided by Newhouse at time of sale to William Hulsey and Susan Hulsey.