Sunday, September 29, 2013

Painting of the Day: Portrait of a Young Man, 1845

Portrait of a Young Man
Alexander Boyd, sitter?
Margaret Sarah Carpenter, 1845
The Victoria & Albert Museum

In the 1840’s, very few women were accepted into the rank of professional painter. Henrietta Ward was among the first in Britain. Painter Margaret Sarah Carpenter, though less known today, was also a talented artist who was described by a peer as, “one of the most distinguished portrait painters in England, “and her husband's obituarist wrote that she “would certainly have been a Royal Academician but for her sex.”

Carpenter’s enormous skill is evidenced in this portrait of a young man which she painted in 1845. During this period, she was commissioned to paint “Exit Portraits” of young men being graduated from Eton. A label on the back of this painting notes that the young man is “Alexander Boyd,” however that is often debated, and, really, the sitter is unknown. Nevertheless, it’s a beautifully rendered piece which shows that Carpenter, indeed, could have been a Royal Academician.

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