Having recently purchased a late Stuart portrait with a painted oval (more on that in a future post) I’ve been looking a bit more closely at painted ovals and cartouches from that period. I’ve started to ask myself a simple question:
“Can the design or technique used in the painted oval/cartouche provide any clues as to who painted the portrait?”.
So, in a not at all scientific study, I’ve started comparing painted ovals by several well known 17th century portrait artists.
There are some problems with this. The first is that not all portraits from that time have solid attributions so I’ve narrowed down my “study” to cases where the identity of the artist is not in any serious doubt. Secondly, and more significantly, whilst the portrait may be known to be painted by a specific artist the oval might not have been. Painted ovals, like drapery is an obvious task for a pupil or studio assistant. And thirdly, is it possible that different artists and studios used the same designs for ovals from a pattern book?
Now I would have thought someone would have done this before and there would some academic paper or thesis on painted ovals but if there is I haven’t found it yet. I think I’m beginning to see some patterns developing but its not yet very clear so I’ll be continuing my informal study for a while.
In the meantime, here is a little test/quiz using three artists – Peter Lely, John Michael Wright and Mary Beale – with three painted ovals each – with the portraits removed, obviously. But which three ovals belong to each artist?
You can find the answers here.