Doncaster Museum & Art Gallery is fortunate to have in its collection three beautiful oil paintings by one of the most famous English artists of the eighteenth century, Joseph Wright of Derby. They are portraits of William Brooke and Elizabeth and William Pigot.
Elizabeth Pigot was William Brooke’s daughter. In 1758 she married William Pigot, and between then and her death eight years later she gave birth to six children.
At the time of the painting Elizabeth would have been 34, and befitting her status as the wife of a wealthy dealer in fabric, she is presented in a fashionable dress of pale grey silk. Around her neck and looping underneath her arms is a long string of pearls, while her cuffs and collar are made of fine lace. In her right hand she holds a small posy of flowers, and on her lap lies a solitary petal, a visual reference to the passing of time as the flowers begin to die.
The painting of the costume in the painting is particularly lovely, with Wright capturing to perfection the play of light and shade on the different fabrics and pearls.
Wright’s skill in painting costume was due to the training that he received at the studio of fashionable portrait painter Thomas Hudson. Here, Wright’s duties included painting the landscape backgrounds and costumes on Hudson’s completed heads. This was because Hudson, like most leading portrait painters of his day, painted only the heads on his pictures, leaving the background and body to be added by an assistant.
There is no doubt that Wright painted the face, body and background in this portrait, and if you look past Elizabeth’s beautiful costume you can see in her face a real portrait of a local person.
Where to see this painting?
Doncaster Museum & Art Gallery
Not all paintings are on display. If you want to see a particular painting, please contact the collection