Another snapshot from James Gillray’s personal papers. This portrait of rather sad looking old lady, dressed in a lace bonnet and collar, was hastily sketched onto a page torn from a legal transcript. Her identity is a complete mystery – was it someone Gillray knew, even his elderly mother perhaps? Or, given the choice of paper and the fact that we know Gillray was occasionally dispatched to the courts to obtain portraits of notable criminals, perhaps it was just a face in the courtroom that briefly captured his attention?
We’ll never know of course, but I think it’s quite nice to think that an otherwise fleeting moment in this woman’s existence has been inadvertently captured for posterity in this way.
Jim Sherry said:
There is some resemblance to the woman in Gillray’s Pro Bono Publico and his Lady. In my comments on that print (http://www.james-gillray.org/pop/pro-bono.html), I speculated that the lady could be Gillray’s mother. Is there any way of dating the document containing the sketch?
A fascinating theory. A closer analysis of the legal document on which the sketch has been executed may provide some clues as to the likely date of production. Unfortunately, I only have the rather blurry photo which was taken on my phone in the British Library’s manuscripts reading room. Possibly something to check out on your next trip to England?