Dress and Textiles, Portraits: British 18th C, Scotland: Artists and Subjects 11 Did Scottish artist Katherine Read paint this portrait of Maria Gunning?

Topic: Artist

I think that this painting is not by Allan Ramsay but by his fellow Scottish artist Katherine Read. Their styles were quite similar. I believe it is the painting on which John Finlayson based his mezzotint published 15 May 1771. This mezzotint by John Finlayson, after Katherine Read of Maria Gunning can be seen on the National Portrait Gallery website https://bit.ly/3qlKz5g.

The painting is in a similar pose with a few minor alterations, with for example the flower shifted from the hair to the neck and the lace around the neck has been omitted and the lace at the top of the dress has been simplified. I believe such alterations were common when doing prints of portraits. What is similar is the hairstyle, the pearl earring, the pose, the string of pearls. Perhaps the painting looks more ‘feminine’ also than the style of Allan Ramsay.

Nicholas Ennos, Entry reviewed by Art UK


Neil Jeffares,

I doubt it. The original Katherine Read engraved by Finlayson is a pastel, which you can find at J.612.199 in the online Dictonary of pastellists http://www.pastellists.com

Jacob Simon,

The scale of the portrait and the handling of the features and the dress, as well as the composition itself, do not fit comfortably with Katherine Read's work. And generally engravings of famous people followed the original painting fairly closely. I think we must look elsewhere for a fairly minor artist whom I fear will defy identification.

Jacinto Regalado,

I agree with Jacob that the print is quite unlikely to have deviated so much from the original, and that this is by a minor hand. Needless to say, this picture is clearly not autograph Ramsay, so it should not be attributed to him.

Bendor Grosvenor,

I suspect Jacob is right, we may never get there, but certainly not with this image. If we can't get a better image from Maidstone, let's wrap this one up.

I have emailed our Art Detective Collections Manager contact to see if a better image, with details and possibly the frame might be something they could now provide if their stores are now accessible.

Maidstone Museum & Bentlif Art Gallery,

Thank you for attaching two images of the portrait. Unless we could look more closely at the details than these allow, with images of a quality that mean they can't be attached here (which you could send to me via WeTransfer or similar), I think we should conclude this as Jacob and Bendor suggest by amending the artist record to unknown artist.

Other than the original PCF images which are used on this site, we do not have access to higher res professional photography services i'm afraid

Thank you for your quick reply. We can't make progress without a visit or better images, so shall we amend the record to 'unknown artist' with a note that it was previously attributed to Allan Ramsay?

Jacob Simon,

My answer to Marion's question from almost a year ago is "Yes" to amending the record as she suggests. But I expect it is the collection's response that Marion is waiting for.

My own view is that "better" images or a site visit would not advance the discussion.

Jacob Simon,

A further thought. Why is the woman identified as Maria Gunning? No evidence has been advanced to support the identification. She was sufficiently prominent in society to have been depicted by leading artists in a rather grander way.

So I'd describe this portyrait as unknown lady by unknown artist unless there is evidence to the contrary.

Please support your comments with evidence or arguments.

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