Early 18th-Century Portrait Fragment Of A Veiled Lady

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An enigmatic and slightly macabre early 18th-century portrait fragment of a lady. She wears a sumptuous satin dress, which is crisscrossed at the front with ribbon, and a luxurious lace veil.

How she ended up like this is a mystery and the story has been lost over time. It seems that there were multiple attempts at restoration, including a reline at some point, but these were never fully completed. That said, we love her present appearance and she could make a fabulous centrepiece in the right room.

Her veil is also intriguing as, during the early part of the 18th century, veils were rarely worn due to the prohibitive cost of lace. As such, they tended to be reserved for weddings involving high-class members of society and nobility.

So could this be a wedding dress? Was this once hanging alongside a portrait of a gentleman?

If not, there are several other reasons for a lady to wear a veil at this time. For instance, they were also used to hide one’s beauty or as a metaphor for concealing the truth. And these associations with disguise led to their frequent appearance in gothic literature during this period.

We can but speculate and perhaps you have your own views on this fascinating lady. Whatever the story, it’s a complete one-off and will certainly evoke some interesting debate.

Medium
Oil on canvas
Overall size
20” x 24” / 51cm x 61cm
Year of creation
c. 1720
Provenance
Private collection, England
Condition
Aside from the obvious missing elements, there are some issues but she’s still fine to hang. These include craquelure throughout, cracked areas that have been filled and paint losses including an area in the bottom left. The canvas has been relined and the stretchers replaced.