Tercentenary Birthday of Joshua Reynolds

Tercentenary Birthday of Joshua Reynolds

This Sunday marks the tercentenary of Sir Joshua Reynolds’ birth! Founding member of the Royal Academy of Art and leading portraitist of the 18th Century, Reynolds painted the most famous members of society from King George III and actress Sarah Siddons to the aristocracy and more in his ‘grand style’ that earned him an equally grand reputation.

Born on 16th July 1723 in Plymouth, his artistic legacy is still felt today as many galleries and museums prepare to celebrate his 300th birthday this weekend by exhibiting his work and remembering his contribution to art history.

At Compton Verney, we are lucky to not only house an incredible portrait by Reynolds, but one that was such a personal passion for the artist that he requested to paint the sitter and kept the painting in his studio until he died, never selling it and bequeathing it to his niece.

Reynolds, Mrs Baldwin in Eastern Dress © Compton Verney

‘Mrs Baldwin in Eastern Dress’ by Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-92) was painted in 1782 at the request of the artist. It shows Jane Baldwin (1763-1839) wearing an Eastern style of dress, called ‘turquerie’, that was inspired by Britain’s trading relationship with the Ottoman Empire. She holds an ancient coin that was originally a book which she read once she became bored of the sittings.

The daughter of a Yorkshire merchant who was trading with the East through the Levant Company, Jane was born in Smyrna (now Izmir) in Turkey. When she was only 16 she married George Baldwin, twenty years her senior, a wealthy merchant and diplomat stationed at Alexandria in Egypt. Considered alluring and exotic, Jane was 19 years old when this painting was made.

Jane was much admired for her beauty and intelligence, and became an object of fascination in Georgian society. She is known to have worn the costume in this painting several times, including at a ball in London given by King George III.

When he made this portrait, Reynolds was one of Britain’s foremost artists and at the height of his celebrity. He was not commissioned to paint Jane but asked if she would sit for him because he was so captivated by her beauty and personality.

You can come and see this magnificent painting in our British Portraits Gallery! Why not come and visit us in honour of Reynolds’ tercentenary before exploring our other collections including the largest collection of British Folk Art in the UK and two brand-new exhibitions; Birds of America and Quentin Blake: Birds, Beasts & Explorers?