barber institute of fine arts
university of birmingham


JOSHUA REYNOLDS (1723 – 1792)

Maria Marow Gideon and her Brother, William

London, 1786/7

Oil on canvas

240 x 148 cm

 

Maria (1767-1834) and William (1775-1805) were the children of Sir Sampson Gideon, who paid Reynolds £300 for this painting in 1787. Maria later married Gregory, 14th Lord Saye and Sele, whilst William, having risen to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel in the Army, died aged just 30.

This portrait marks a high point in Reynolds’s late style: grand, imposing and stylish. By placing the figures close to the picture plane, he has emphasised the sumptuous fabrics of the sitters’ fashionable clothes; Maria in white and black with a dash of blue in the silk sash, William in a cutaway coat, double-breasted waistcoat, buff breeches and jockey boots. Despite this focus on fabrics, Reynolds has not overlooked the siblings’ different characters. Whilst William poses confidently in relaxed contrapposto, his older sister seems less certain, holding herself stiffly, as if waiting for the viewer’s glance to move on.

Accepted in lieu of Inheritance Tax by HM Government and allocated to the Henry Barber Trust (for the Barber Institute of Fine Arts), 2013 (No.2013.1)

 

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