Lady Worsley by Reynolds

Lady Worsley by Reynolds
Lady Worsley by Reynolds

Joshua Reynolds is one of the greatest portraitists of 17th-century English painting. He painted, as was usual among rococo artists, the bourgeois and aristocratic characters of his time, and he even made several portraits in very candid tones starring the children of those rich characters such as the case of his work Portrait of Miss Bowles with her dog.

Lady Worsley of Reynolds

Reynolds' Lady Worsley

However, this oil-painted canvas is a work of a very different nature. It introduces us to one of the most controversial women of that time: Lady Worsley. When he made this huge canvas (236 x 144 cm) in the year 1776, this woman had not yet starred in his great social scandal, but she was already a character with a bad reputation among the most conservative people.

Reynolds obviously was aware of this, and presents it to us as is. As a very attractive lady with a domineering character, hence the horse riding crop that she carries in her right hand. She also wears a very spectacular riding outfit, which was probably not her most comfortable riding outfit, but it was an outfit meant to make the most of her figure, especially the way her waist is enhanced. In fact, her shoes don't seem the most appropriate for riding a horse either, but it was more important to impress.

And the painter also collaborates in this idea that the figure of this woman impresses the viewer. Hence, a certain distortion can be seen in the proportions of the portrait, to give it more beauty and pomposity. A resource that Reynolds did not invent, but that already went back centuries, especially to the Renaissance painting that the artist knew so well. Then, various works byTitiansuch as his Danae showed us female bodies with certain distortions and disproportions

In the case ofPortrait of Lady Worsleywe see that she has extraordinarily long legs, while her feet are tiny in comparison. If she had really been like that, the truth is that she would have been practically impossible to walk, or even stand up.

Everything in this work, held at Harewood House in Yorkshire, UK, is meant to make an impression. From the imposing figure of the portrayed, especially striking for her verticality, her central position and the passionate red tone of her dress, as well as for the setting where the portrait is placed. He places her in a somewhat undefined landscape with very soft tones, which further increase her powerful presence as the dominator of the entire canvas. With a pose that transmits greatness, security and individualism. In short, a portrait that, in addition to showing us the great pictorial mastery of the artist, also helps us to verify how he was capable of portraying the spirit and character of each one of his portraits.

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