Miss Fordyce (Mrs Greenwood)
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Portrait of Miss Fordyce (Mrs Greenwood) playing a lute. Miss Fordyce is shown in half-length pose, turned to the left with the lute in front. She reads an open music book resting on a stand on a small table to the left. She wears a diaphanous veil and a silk gown over a low-cut white chemise. Patterned draperies appear behind and to the left.
Joshua Reynolds's account book shows that Walter Radcliffe paid for this portrait. Miss Fordyce may have been his mistress during the early 1760s. The portrait references Italian paintings of the 16th and 17th centuries.
In its half length pose and the inclusion of the lute, the portrait is reminiscent of Italian portraits of the 16th and 17th centuries, for example Artemisia Gentileschi's self portrait as a lute player, Curtis Galleries, Minneapolis. Reynolds may have seen similar paintings during his trip to Italy in 1750-52. The style is reminiscent of Reynold's depiction of the muse of Tragedy in his contemporary portrait of David Garrick at Waddesdon (acc. no. 102.1995). This muse was painted in the style of Guido Reni, an Italian artist associated with restrained classicism. Reynolds may have intended the classical and antiquated feel to frame connotations of the woman's availability in a veil of respectability.
When this portrait was made, Reynolds was fast becoming one of the most fashionable portrait painters in London. He had just moved into a larger studio; taken on an apprentice and begun publicly exhibiting. The portrait emphasises the sitter's feminine beauty and availability in her turned head and exposed décolletage. Around the same time it was made, Miss Fordyce's brother, Alexander, a London banker, became famous for making and then losing a fortune buying and short-selling shares in the East India Company.
The painting's buyer, Walter Radcliffe, came from Waleigh near Plymouth. He was a friend of John Parker, Lord Boringdon, of nearby Saltram House, who was an early patron of Reynolds. Reynolds's family came from Devon, so he may have won this patronage through his family's ties. Miss Fordyce later married a Mr Greenwood. She was reputed to have been one of 20 children of the Provost of Aberdeen, George Fordyce.
Phillippa Plock, 2011
Dimensions (mm) / weight (mg)
760 x 628
Signature & date
not signed or dated
Right of fireplace
R. of fireplace
G.[...]R. Left of west window [crossed out]
on verso, old label half torn, ink
on verso, modern label, printed
Right of fireplace
Right of fireplace
- Commissioned from Reynolds by Walter Radcliffe (b.1733, d.1803 ); probably purchased by John, Lord Boringdon (d.1788), a friend of the buyer Walter Radcliffe, or it may have been bequeathed by Radcliffe to John's son, 1st Earl of Morley of Saltram House, Devon (b.1772, d.1840) who owned it by 1813; by descent to his son Edmund Parker 2nd Earl of Morley (b.1810, d.1864); by descent to his son Albert Edmund Parker 3rd Earl of Morley (b.1843, d.1905); bought by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild (b.1839, d.1898) from the 3rd Earl of Morley during the 1880s; inherited by his sister Alice de Rothschild (b.1847, d.1922); inherited by her great-nephew James de Rothschild (b.1878, d.1957); accepted by The Treasury Solicitor in lieu of taxes on the Estate of Mr James de Rothschild in 1963; given to Waddesdon The Rothschild Collection (The National Trust) in 1990.
- British Institute Exhibition, 1813, London, no. 63, as 'Mrs Greenwood', lent by Lord Boringdon (1st Earl of Morley)
- Waddesdon (National Trust)
- Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Waddesdon Manor, 1990
- Algernon Graves, William Vine Cronin; A History of the Works of Sir Joshua Reynolds; 4 vols; London; Henry Graves; 1899-1901; vol. 1, p. 325
- Ellis Waterhouse; Reynolds; London; Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co. Ltd.,; 1941; p. 51
- Ellis Waterhouse, Anthony Blunt; Paintings: The James A. de Rothschild Collection at Waddesdon Manor; Fribourg; Office du Livre, The National Trust; 1967; pp. 72-73, cat. no. 25, ill.
- Malcolm Cormack, The Ledgers of Sir Joshua Reynolds, The Walpole Society, 42, 1968-1970, 105-69; pp. 133-34
- David Mannings, Martin Postle; Sir Joshua Reynolds: a Complete Catalogue of his Paintings; 2 vols; London; Yale University Press; 2000; p. 200, no. 661, fig. 654
- Miss Fordyce, Sitter
Person as Subject
- Objects/Musical Instruments/Lute
- Objects/Reading, Writing & Printed Matter/Musical Score
- Objects/Furnishings/Soft Furnishings
- Objects/Clothing & Personal Effects/Veil
- Objects/Clothing & Personal Effects/Fancy Dress