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Henrietta Read, later Henrietta Meares

Date: ca.1777
Dimensions:
89 1/4 x 56 3/8 in. (226.7 x 143.2 cm.)
Medium: oil on canvas
Credit Line: The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens
Object Number: 24.2
Label Text:In the mid-18th century, British artists developed a distinctive type of portraiture known today as the Grand Manner. Like this work, Grand Manner portraits were large in size, and meant to demonstrate the importance of a family’s lineage. Many were hung in the formal rooms and hallways of great British houses. Henrietta Read’s grandfather, a wealthy brewer, commissioned Gainsborough to paint this portrait – as well as those of other family members – as part of a dynastic display. In a pose that recalls 17th-century court portraits, Henrietta drapes part of her lilac gown over a stone plinth, providing a cushioned support for her elbow and revealing her white silk petticoat. The pink, cream, and charcoal of her delicate gown admirably complement her complexion and dark hair color, and provide a striking foil to her bold black eyebrows and dark brown eyes.