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17th Century portrait miniature of a Lady with long brown hair in pink dress and blue striped shawl, painted in gouache on vellum


This miniature was formerly in the collection of the late Greta S. Heckkett of Pittsburgh, USA when it was thought to have been painted by Samuel Cooper. Perhaps the reason for the Coper attribution was that the present miniature bears a strong likeness to several of the portraits of ladies illustrated in the Samuel Cooper 'pocket book' now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. The pocket book contains 14 miniatures which were all formerly believed to be by Cooper however, Graham Reynols has now argued, with conviction, that only four of the miniatures in the book are by Cooper, and nine are by Susan Penelope Rosse , one is Anonymous.(1)

Susannah Penelope was the daughter of the miniaturist Richard Gibson. She followed her father's profession and was his pupil. She studied and frequently copied miniatures by Cooper and may well have worked in his studio. She lived with her father three streets north of Samuel Cooper in Henrietta Street, and the households were doubtless well acquainted with each other. After Cooper's death, his house was taken over by Christopher Rosse, a jeweller employed at Court and a man of wealth. The jeweller's son, also Michael, married Susan -Penelope.

Many miniatures by Gibson are recorded as being in the possession of Michael Rosse at his sale in April 1723, together with both finished and unfinished miniatures by Cooper. The Cooper material is likely to have been that brought by the Rosses from Cooper's widow, possibly as part of the residual house contents acquired by the family when Christina moved out, c. 1673.

Vertue's states that ' her (Rosse) first manner she learnt of her father, but being inamour'd with Cooper's limnings, she studied & copy'd them to prefection' (2). This remark is borne out by this miniature and is true of other miniatures found in the Cooper 's 'pocket book' by Suan-Penelope . As this miniature is evidence she was able to work with great finesse on an exceptionally small scale.

Although the miniature is likely to have been executed circa 1690 it harps back to the costume and style of Cooper's work in the 1660's and bears a strong resemblance to the portrait of Lady Hardinge, painted 1664 by Cooper, which was exhibited at the NPG in 1974.
More Information
Year                 Circa 1690
Provenance                 Collection Greta Shield Heckett (1899-1976), Pittsburgh, PA.
Nachsatz Heckett, Part II, Sotheby's, London, auction on July 11, 1977, lot 146 with ill. (As of Samuel Cooper).
Literature                 1) John Murdoch Seventeen century British Miniatures, in the Victoria and Albert Musuem, p. 162.
2) Vertue Notebook I, vol. XVIII (1921-30) Walpole Society, p. 117.
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