Two portraits associated with the 17th-century artist Mary Beale, one of the first professional female artists in England, come for sale at Chiswick Auctions in London this month. The two bust-length portraits are expected to bring £4,000-£6,000 each as part of the sale of Old Masters & 19th Century Art in London on September 12.
Mary Beale (1632-1697) was born near Bury St Edmunds (the town’s Moyse’s Hall Museum has one of the largest collections of her work). She gained significant acclaim for her portraits of various notable individuals and was well known in artistic and intellectual circles. However, until more recently, her work had been largely disregarded with many portraits attributed to male artists of the period.
Although the precise identity of the author of these works is yet to be satisfactorily resolved, a plausible attribution to the circle of Mary Beale has been suggested. A comparison between her known portraits and these works shows the same naturalistic style, a focus on capturing the personality and character of the sitter and a similar spirit and vigour to the brushwork.
One portrait measuring 76 x 63 cm shows a lady in a red dress, a gold shawl and pearls in her hair within a sculptural cartouche.
The other, of the same size and style, may depict Mary Rich, Countess of Warwick. Both date from the 1660-80s.