Portrait of Lady Elizabeth Haythorne, George Romney

George Romney (British, 1734–1802)

 Portrait of Lady Elizabeth Haythorne, 1791

 Oil on canvas

 Gift of Reid and Charlotte Yates, 2010 (14260.1)

 This work is a routine society portrait that served to capture the likeness of a young woman in the prime of her youth. Romney, a popular though shy artist, specialized in these types of portraits and relied upon them for financial security. In eighteenth-century London, the price of a portrait was based upon size and the degree of complicated sartorial or landscape elements in the composition.  The patron—in this case, probably Lady Elizabeth’s husband or father—would determine these elements in consultation with the artist.  Lady Elizabeth likely sat for Romney several times in his studio, so that he could paint her face directly from life.  Romney would complete the remainder of the composition—the sunset, the dramatic red curtain, her white gown—on his own, perhaps using a model or a mannequin.  Lady Elizabeth’s dress was probably a studio prop that she never actually wore, since versions of the gown appear in many of Romney’s portraits of young women.