A Portrait by Constable for the National Galleries of Scotland

John Constable (1776-1837)
Portrait of Laura Moubray, 1808
Oil on canvas - 44.5 x 35.5 cm
National Galleries of Scotland
Photo : National Galleries of Scotland

3/11/13 - Acquisition - Edinburgh, National Galleries of Scotland - What is the connection between Corot’s Italian Woman and Constable’s portrait of Laura Moubray ? Lucian Freud. Both these paintings belonged to the artist who donated them to Britain through acceptance in lieu after his death in 2011 : the first now resides at the National Gallery in London ; the second recently joined the National Galleries in Scotland. Freud probably purchased it at a Sotheby’s auction in London on 5 June 2008.

Constable left very few portraits, representing mostly close friends or family. Here, he paid particular attention to the model’s face, illuminating it with a single ray of light and making it stand out against a neutral and somber background, whereas the clothing is rapidly brushed in. The painter did not attempt to idealize the young woman ; his choice of showing her in profile underscores her upturned nose, round chin and the slightly pouting mouth.

Laura Moubray was the daughter of William Hobson and the wife of Robert Moubray of Cocharny and Otterston (1774-1848) who was Deputy Lieutenant of Fife, in Scotland. The painter produced a series of sketches during a stay at Markfield House, the Hobson’s estate in Tottenham, in 1806, capturing the figures of the Hobson sisters and their father as well as a private family moment.

This portrait can be closely associated with another, produced in chalk, which appeared at a Christie’s auction on 10 December 2008 : the features of the model are very similar to those of Laura Moubray. This addition rounds out the ensemble of other Constable works held at the museum - a major landscape, The Vale of Dedham (1828) and a small sketch On the Stour (1830) - as well as a series of portraits by the most famous English artists, Thomas Gainsborough, Sir Joshua Reynolds and Sir Thomas Lawrence. The museum also owns works by Lucian Freud.

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Bénédicte Bonnet Saint-Georges, lundi 4 novembre 2013

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