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Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1723–1792

Elizabeth Gunning, Duchess of Hamilton and Argyll

ca. 1760
Materials & Techniques:
Oil on canvas
94 x 58 inches (238.8 x 147.3 cm)
Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
Paintings and Sculpture
Subject Terms:
birds | costume | doves | duchess | flowers (plants) | fountain | fur | garden | gems | jewelry | landscape | mantelet | portrait | relief | trees | woman
Associated People:
Campbell [née Gunning], Elizabeth, duchess of Argyll and suo jure Baroness Hamilton of Hameldon [other married name Elizabeth Hamilton, duchess of Hamilton and Brandon] (bap. 1733, d. 1790), courtier
Not on view
IIIF Manifest:

Joshua Reynolds exhibited his full-length portrait of Elizabeth Gunning in the very first exhibition of contemporary art in Britain in 1760. It created a sensation and helped establish Reynolds as the leading painter of his generation. The Duchess was considered one the most beautiful woman of the age, so celebrated that crowds would gather wherever she traveled just to get a glimpse of her. Reynolds presents her as a modern Venus by giving her a pair of doves, the goddess’s attribute, and placing her alongside a fictive relief of the Judgment of Paris. The Duke of Hamilton, her dissolute first husband, commissioned the portrait shortly before he died in 1758, but it seems Reynolds retained it for several years. This is a studio replica of that painting and was probably copied by Reynolds’s assistants while the original portrait was still in his possession.

Gallery label for installation of YCBA collection, 2016

Christie, Manson & Woods, Christie's sale catalogue : Catalogue of Important English Painters from the Northwick Park Collection, c. 1550-1880 : 25 June 1965., Christie's, London, June 25, 1965, pp. 31, 76, Fiche B51, Fiche #3840, card 1 [ORBIS]

Malcolm Cormack, Concise Catalogue of Paintings in the Yale Center for British Art, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 1985, pp. 186, 187, N590.2 A83 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Elizabeth Gunning, Duchess of Hamilton and Argyll, Connoisseur, v. 203, April 1980, pp. 245-6, N1 C75 + (YCBA) [YCBA]

Catherine M. Gordon, British paintings Hogarth to Turner, Frederick Warne, London, 1981, p. 57, ND466 G67 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Algernon Graves, A history of the works of Sir Joshua Reynolds, P.R.A., Henry Graves & Co., London, UK, 1899, p. 421 (v.2), NJ18 R36 G73 OVERSIZE (YCBA) Also available on Microfiche: Fiche B6 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Robert W. Jones, Gender and the formation of taste in eighteenth-century Britain, the analysis of beauty , Cambridge [England] New York, 1998, PR448 A77 J66 1998 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Robert W. Jones, Such Strange Unwonted Softness to Excuse, Judgement and Indulgence in Sir Joshua Reynolds' Portrait of Elizabeth Gunning, Dutchess of Hamilton and Argyll , Oxford Art Journal, vol. 18, no. 1, 1995, p. 29-43, fig. 1, N1 O83+ (HAAS) Also available Online (Orbis) [ORBIS]

David Mannings, Sir Joshua Reynolds, a complete catalogue of his paintings , Yale University Press, New Haven, 2000, v. 1, p. 236; v. 2, p. 352, no. 811, fig. 794, NJ18 R36 A12 M35 2000 OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

John Rushout Northwick, Catalogue of the collection of pictures at Northwick Park, Chiswick Press, London, 1921, p. 137, no. 359, N5247 N67 A55 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Paul Mellon's Legacy : a passion for British art [large print labels], , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2007, v. 1, N5220 M552 P381 2007 OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

Nicholas Penny, Reynolds, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1986, p.199, NJ18 R36 P452 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Portrait of Elizabeth Gunning, Duchess of Hamilton and Argyll, Studio, v. 140, July 1950, p. 3, J10 St94 + (LSF) [ORBIS]

Aileen Ribeiro, The art of dress, fashion in England and France 1750 to 1820 , Yale University Press, New Haven, CT, 1995, pp. 22-26, pl. 27, GT736 R53 1995 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Michael Rosenthal, The art of Thomas Gainsborough, "a little business for the eye" , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, 1999, pp. 54-55, pl. 57, NJ18 G16 R67 1999 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Darrel Sewell, Charles Willson Peale's Portraits of the Cadawalader Family, Philadelphia Museum of Art Bulletin, vol. 91, Autumn 1996, pp. 29, 31, fig. 33, Available online Available online through JStor. [ORBIS]

Treasures from the Lady Level Art Gallery, Apollo, v. 111, no. 218, April 1980, pp. 328-9, N1 A54 + (YCBA) [YCBA]

Gustav Friedrich Waagen, Treasures of art in Great Britain, being an account of the chief collections of paintings, drawings, sculptures, illuminated mss., & c., &c. , London, 1854, p. 210 (v.3), N1020 W22 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Ellis Waterhouse, Reynolds, Kegan Paul, Trench Trübner, London, 1941, pp. 11-12. 45, pl. 67, NJ18 R36 W37 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Ellis Waterhouse, Three decades of British art, 1740-1770., 1964, American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia, 1965, pp. 52-53, N6766 W3 (YCBA) [YCBA]

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