The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
Mrs Elizabeth Carnac
  • Joshua Reynolds (1723 - 1792)
  • Mrs Elizabeth Carnac
  • England
  • c. 1775
  • Painting
  • Oil on canvas
  • Image size: 240.4 x 146.4 cm
    Object size: 266 x 174 x 13.5 cm
  • P35
  • West Room
Commentary
History
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • Elizabeth Catharine Rivett (1751-1780) married Brigadier-General John Carnac (1716-1800) of the East India Company in 1769. John Carnac had worked in India since the 1740s, but returned to England in 1767 and acquired an estate near Ringwood in Hampshire. In 1776, following his re-appointment to the East India Company, the Carnacs returned to India at very short notice. Reynolds probably began this portrait shortly before their departure, because it was never collected by them nor indeed paid for. The composition is typical of Reynolds’s full-length portraits from the mid-1770s. The sun-dappled landscape setting shows the artist’s response to the portrait innovations of his rival, Gainsborough. The spectacular hairstyle with ostrich feathers was the height of fashion at the time, and associated with the famous beauty, Georgina, the Duchess of Devonshire.

    The portrait remained in Reynolds’s possession at his death and appeared in his studio sale in 1796. The portrait was acquired by the 4th Marquess of Hertford in 1861, and was intended as a pendant to Gainsborough’s portrait of Mary Robinson, of similar dimensions (see P42).