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A fine portrait miniature of a young Lady


Artist: Mary Beale

Wearing a low-cut blue dress with slashed sleeves revealing white underdress, brown stole fastened with a brooch at her left shoulder, gem set brooch and string ofpearls at her corsage
on vellum, set in the original silver-gilt frame with pierced spiral cresting

Mary Beale (nee Cradock) was one of the most successful professional female Baroque-era portrait painters of the late 17th century due to her perseverance of her business. Praised by Richard Gibson and court painter Peter Lely, she is considered as successful as Joan Carlile.[citation needed] Joan Carlile was also an English portrait painter, who was one of the first women to practise painting professionally. Mary Beale managed to be the financial provider for her family through her professional portrait business. Her book Observations, although it was never officially published, was one of the first instructional books ever written by a woman, and boldly announced her authority on painting.
Mary married Charles Beale on 8 March 1651/2 at the age of eighteen. Throughout their marriage, Mary and Charles worked together as equals and as business partners, which was not often seen at the time. She started working by painting favours for people she knew in exchange for small gifts or favors. Charles Beale kept close record of everything Mary did as an artist. He would take notes on how she painted, what business transactions took place, who came to visit, and what praise she would receive. Charles wrote thirty notebooks' worth of observations over the years, calling Mary 'my dearest heart'. She became a semi-professional portrait painter in the 1650s and 1660s, working from her home, first in Covent Garden and later in Fleet Street in London.
Once Mary did start painting for money in the 1670s, she carefully picked whom she would paint, and used the praise of her circle of friends to build a good reputation as a painter. Some of these people included Queen Henrietta Maria and John Tillotson, a clergyman from St James' Church, a close friend of Mary Beale who eventually became the Archbishop of Canterbury. Mary's connection to Tillotson as well as her strong Puritan marriage to Charles worked in her favour in building up her good reputation.[Mary Beale typically charged five pounds for a painting of a head and ten pounds for half of a body for oil paintings. She made about two hundred pounds a year and gave ten per cent of her earnings to charity. This income was enough to support her family, and she did so.Needless to say, it is truly remarkable that Mary Beale was responsible for being the breadwinner of the family.cec
More Information
Provenance                 De la Hey Collection; Sotheby's, London 27 Mary 1968, lot 57 (£700 to Law)
Robert Bayne-Powell, C.B
Christie's, Property of a European Collection, 21 April, 1998
Literature                 Daphne Foskett, Collecting Mniatures, Woodbridge, 1979, p. 108, illustrated pl. 21A
Daphne Foskett, Miniatures, Dictionary and Guide, Woodbridge, 1987, p. 108 illustrated pl. 21A -
Exhibition                 Edinburgh, The Arts council Gallery, British Portrait Miniatures, 1965, no. 110
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