Miss Fordyce, Joshua Reynolds
This is one of the earliest works by Reynolds at Waddesdon and it shows the influence of 16th and 17th-century Italian painting, particularly through its imitation of the colouring and handling of paint of the Venetians.
Reynolds used glazes (translucent layers of oil with very little pigment) to achieve luminosity in the face and saturation in the red curtain. In other places he laid opaque paint on quickly. The vertical edges of the veil are picked out with thick paint, where they catch the light. The curve of the upper edge of the lute appears to have been created with a single, extended movement of the brush.
The composition creates a sense of intimacy. Miss Fordyce is placed close to us, the corner of the table jutting towards us, the backs of her hands right up against the picture plane. Although she turns her face away to look at the score, her neck and breast are exposed to the scrutiny of the spectator. She is plucking a string. The notes on the corner of the page are legible. Is the viewer intruding upon a private moment or included in her music making?
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