A Painting by Nathaniel Dance Acquired by Cincinnati

Nathaniel Dance (1735-1811)
Portrait of Sir James and Lady Hodges,
their sons John, James and Henry
and their daughters Mary and Elizabeth
, c. 1766
Oil on canvas - 143 x 155.5 cm
Cincinnati, Art Museum

17/10/13 - Acquisition - Cincinnati Art Museum - The Art Museum in Cincinnati has just acquired a painting by Nathaniel Dance from the Richard Green Gallery in London. The painting is in good condition, quite naturally after all since it remained for two centuries in the same family until its sale at Christie’s in 2009.
The artist, the son of George Dance the architect, used the genre known as conversation piece to represent Sir James and Lady Hodges surrounded by their sons John, James and Henry as well as their daughters Mary and Elizabeth in a large format. Sir Hodges, who became a noble in 1759, was a stationer but also carried out more official charges (town clerk and deputy chamberlain) for the city of London as suggested by his portrait painted by Reynolds in 1765.

The painter, a famous portraitist who went by the name of Nathaniel Dance-Holland, produced this work after returning to London. He had indeed gone to Rome after training with Francis Hayman, living there from 1754 to 1765 and working in Pompeo Batoni’s studio. The latter’s influence is obvious in the vivid colors, the dynamic composition, the treatment of the fabrics. The painter successfully renders a warm atmosphere ; the impression of an informal family reunion is in sharp contrast with the rich décor of the room and its long red drapes, blue and white porcelain, colored rug and Italianate landscape over the fireplace, probably by Richard Wilson who, along with Dance, was one of the founders of the Royal Academy. The affective ties uniting the figures are expressed in their gestures and looks : the youngest son is looking tenderly at his mother, while the two sisters link arms. Though dressed in uniform, the oldest son is sitting nonchalantly while his younger brother is lifting his velvet coat and seems to be turning his head at the arrival of a visitor, who is of course the spectator.
Dance rarely depicts the figures of a conversation piece in an interior ; he prefers to set the Pybus Family (National Gallery of Victoria) in a park and does not hesitate to animate the composition with antique ruins when needed.

Version française

Bénédicte Bonnet Saint-Georges, jeudi 17 octobre 2013

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