This brilliant and penetrating portrait in the past was attributed to William Hogarth, the great innovator of British painting. Although the stylistic differences undoubtedly exclude the authorship of Hogarth, the masterful and sympathetic characterization, which is the chief virtue of Hogarth's portraiture, makes the earlier attribution at least understandable. Recently, Axel Vécsey tentatively proposed the authorship of Thomas Hudson, the most fashionable portraitist of the British society during the 1740s, who was later surpassed only by his own pupil, the robustly talented Joshua Reynolds. However, Hudson's average output is far less bright than this masterpiece, thus more recently an alternative attribution to his more vivacious contemporary, Allan Ramsay, was suggested.
The unknown lady's face and hands are treated in an extremely sensitive and sophisticated way, whereas the bright satin dress is handled in a broader manner, thinly and freshly. The dress (as was usual in this period with Hudson as well as other portraitists) was most probably painted by a different artist, presumably Joseph van Aken, who was often employed as a specialist drapery painter by Hudson and his colleagues during the 1740s.
Text: © Axel Vécsey