Gainsborough’s portrait of Elizabeth Wrottesley, aged around nineteen, reflects the French influences of his training under Francis Hayman and the Huguenot engraver, Hubert-François Bourguignon, more commonly known as Gravelot.
In the 1760s Gainsborough established a successful practice in the fashionable spa town of Bath. In failing health, Gainsborough began limiting his commissions, but on meeting the sitter’s uncle the Duke of Bedford he stated ‘I cannot resist the honour of doing something for the Duke of Bedford productive of further advantages’. Gainsborough painted so many portraits of the Wrottesley-Bedford family at this time it is assumed they were visiting Bath on holiday. Included among his sitters were Elizabeth and her sister. A famed beauty, ‘Betty’ Wrottesley married the Prime Minister of England, the Duke of Grafton, in 1769. A related picture showing Elizabeth in a slightly different pose is in the collection of the Duke of Bedford in Woburn Abbey.
Text by Laurie Benson
© National Gallery of Victoria, Australia