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Mrs Elizabeth Moody with her sons Samuel and Thomas

Thomas Gainsboroughc.1779-85

Dulwich Picture Gallery

Dulwich Picture Gallery

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Elizabeth Johnson was the first wife of Samuel Moody. She died, aged 26, in December 1782 leaving two sons, Samuel, then twenty months old, and Thomas, eight months. Thomas inherited this portrait and left it to the Gallery.

The painting is typical of Gainsborough’s late manner, where glamorous women walk through sketchy landscapes in superb costumes. Dated c.1778-82, the boys seem older than their ages at the time of their mother’s death. X-rays confirm that they were added later – originally she was on her own, toying with her pearls. The two shadowy feet peeping from under her skirts show the changes Gainsborough made to accommodate the new composition.
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  • Title: Mrs Elizabeth Moody with her sons Samuel and Thomas
  • Date: c.1779-85
  • Physical Dimensions: w1542 x h2340 cm
  • Type: Painting
  • Medium: Oil
  • Work Nationality: British
  • Support: Canvas
  • Provenance: Gift of Captain Thomas Moody, 1831.
  • Further Information: Elizabeth Moody, née Johnson (1756-82). In 1779 she married Samuel Moody (see Russell DPG6O1), to whom she bore two sons, Samuel (b.1781) and Thomas (b.1782). An X-ray reveals that DPG316 was originally painted as a single portrait, the sitter's right hand raised to finger a string of pearls at her chest. The portrait in this state was probably painted c.1779/ 80. The children must have been added after their mother's death - probably, from the evidence of their apparent ages, in 1784/5. Both sons followed military careers: Samuel served as Captain in Bengal and died unmarried in 1826; Thomas, a Captain in the 41st Foot in India, married in 1826 Lucy Wood of Reigate, and was still living in 1841. On 23 February 1786 their father remarried Mary Paterson (c.1767-1820). Thomas's diary is said to reveal an aversion to his step-mother and by giving this Gainsborough to a public gallery he would have prevented it from passing to her four children. The portrait was probably painted on the occasion of Moody's first marriage in 1779. The 'quasi-Turkish' ensemble of hairstyle and costume is of the late 1770s and the original elegant pose compares closely with Gainsborough's 'Mrs Henry Beaufoy' shown at the RA in 1780.
  • Artist: Gainsborough, Thomas
  • Acquisition Method: Moody, Captain Thomas (Gift, 1831)

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