"Gainsborough became friendly with the Linleys after his move to Bath in 1759. This exceptionally talented family dominated musical life in the town. Elizabeth, the elder girl (in blue), was one of the foremost sopranos of the day, and Mary had a successful career as a singer and actress. Gainsborough's work on this painting was interrupted by Elizabeth's elopement in 1772 with Richard Brinsley Sheridan, the future playwright and politician.

The sisters are shown as if they have paused in their music making in a spring woodland. The relaxed elegance of their pose shows an intimate understanding of Van Dyck, whose portraits had a strong influence on Gainsborough's oeuvre."


  • Title: Elizabeth and Mary Linley
  • Date: c.1772, retouched 1785
  • Physical Dimensions: w15350 x h19900 cm
  • Type: Painting
  • Medium: Oil
  • Work Notes: Other portraits of Elizabeth by Gainsborough are in Philadelphia and the National Gallery, Washington, and one of Gainsborough's Fancy Pictures, called Miss Linley and her Brother, is in the Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Mass.Acc. to Kalinsky 'the picture was probably painted as a present for Thomas Linley. Gainsborough took the painting back to his studio in 1785 and retouched it, altering the hairstyles and details of clothing. Mary, who had never felt flattered by her likeness, was delighted: ÒWhen I came home last night I found our pciture come home from Gainsbro's very much improved and freshened up."" some of these later additions, such as a black velvet slash around Elizabeth's waist, were removed during cleaning in the 1950s.'
  • Work Nationality: British
  • Support: Canvas
  • Provenance: Bath, Linley family; R. B. Sheridan in 1814; returned to William Linley (1771-1835) in part-payment of a debt, deposited by him in the Gallery in 1822; bequethed to DPG by William Linley, 1831.
  • Further Information: The painting is typical of Gainsborough’s late manner, where glamorous women walk through sketchy landscapes in superb costumes. The viewer has the impression that the sisters have just been interrupted from their music and will momentarily pick up their instruments.
  • Artist: Thomas Gainsborough
  • Acquisition Method: Linley, William (Bequest, 1835)

Get the app

Explore museums and play with Art Transfer, Pocket Galleries, Art Selfie, and more


Google apps