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Joseph (1734) Wright (1734 - 1797)

Lot 109: Joseph Wright of Derby (Derby 1734-1797)

Bonhams 3

July 6, 2005
London, United Kingdom

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Portrait of an officer, half-length, in the uniform of the Royal Artillery, his right hand resting on a cannon, a battle beyond
oil on canvas
71.1 x 53.4 cm. (28 x 21 in.)


We are grateful to Mr David Fraser for confirming the attribution upon first hand inspection of the painting; and to Erika Ingham of the National Portrait Gallery for confirming the attribution on the basis of a colour transparency (letter, dated 29th September, 2004).

From the Royal Artillery uniform, the present portrait may be dated to between 1765-8. This was after the colour of the waistcoat changed from white to buff and before regimental dress was considerably reformed by the Warrant of 1768 in the interests of practicality. This is confirmed by the painting's stylistic similarity to Wright's Cornet Sir George Cooke, which has been dated to circa 1766-8, with its bright colours that contrast with a dark featureless background (Tate Gallery, Wright of Derby, exhibition catalogue, 1990, no. 33, p. 78). The drama is increased by Wright's depiction of the sitter as a veteran emerging from the smoke of battle, while the presence of the cannon underlines his links to an artillery regiment. Wright's clients were charged extra when the artist depicted their hands in his portraits, as is evident from his account book, in which he would specify, for example: 'Mr...with a hand £15'

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Old Master Paintings

Bonhams 3
July 6, 2005, 12:00 AM EST

London, United Kingdom