A Woman in Blue Portrait of the Duchess of Beaufort Thomas Gainsborough Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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The Lady in Blue portrait by Thomas Gainsborough is believed to have been produced around 1770-1780. The portrait was handed down to the Hermitage by Khitrovo Alexei and given to the museum in 1916. This piece of art stands out as the only example of Gainsborough's work in Russia. It is an oil on canvas painting and clearly manifests Gainsborough's use of the rococo style of art and decoration.

In this painting, Thomas Gainsborough reveals an unknown woman. Though the real subject is still a mystery, some historians identify the woman in the picture as the Duchess of Beaufort. Duchess of Beaufort is the title given to the Duke of Beaufort's wife in the Peerage of England. Henry Somerset, the 3rd Marquess of Worcester, got married to Mary Capell in 1657 and, in 1682, Charles II created the dukedom. Therefore, Henry the first became Duke while Mary the first became the Duchess of Beaufort.

Gainsborough's portrait of this unknown woman is considered one of the most adorable and excellent artworks in the Hermitage collection of the English paintings. Although Gainsborough did not actually like painting portraits, preferring working on landscapes, he surprisingly was best-loved for his portrait works and is what makes him stand out even today. His style was noted and greatly admired by contemporaries as well as his big rival, Sir Joshua Reynolds. The President of the Royal Academy openly admitted his skill.

Gainsborough created an image of eminent beauty and elegance, a portrait dominated by the mood of romantic dreaminess. The painting is made with cold shades. Blue is used in abundance to depict a long shawl, and the woman's hat is also coloured blue. The white colour of the woman's skin is admirable. The artist optimally displayed the external features of this young woman and could convey her inner state through the fine details of the picture. The woman is outwardly calm, with an odd, clever look from her dark brown eyes. Generally, the mobile, light, melting brushstrokes convey the woman's soft skin as well as the greyish-blue silk of the woman's shawl and the lush feather of the headdress. Free, sketchy painting is merged with fine colour transitions to bring out an effect similar to pastel.