Joshua Reynolds (1723 - 1792)
- Miss Jane Bowles
- c. 1775
- Oil on canvas
- Image size: 91 x 70.9 cm
Frame size: 109 x 89 cm
- Jane Bowles was the eldest daughter of Oldfield Bowles (1739–1810), a landowner of North Aston, Oxfordshire, also an amateur painter and musician. Allegedly, Bowles was concerned about Reynolds’s experimental use of materials but was advised by Sir George Beaumont that ‘even a faded picture from Reynolds will be the finest thing you have.’ Reynolds was then invited to dinner with the Bowles family and played games with her to win her confidence. Records of payment indicate that the portrait was painted between 1775 and 1776, when the sitter was three or four years old.
Miss Bowles is portrayed in a fanciful theatrical costume, kneeling and embracing her pet spaniel. The lively and spontaneous composition recalls Reynolds's ‘fancy pictures.’ The beam of sunlight, which shines through the foliage on the right hand side of the picture, is boldly painted in a few decisive strokes of paint. The woodland setting is reminiscent of the background Reynolds used for his portrait of Nelly O’Brien in the early 1760s (see P38).
Despite Oldfield Bowles’s alleged concerns about Reynolds’s fading pigments, the portrait remains in good condition. It was first engraved in 1798 by William Ward, with the title ‘Juvenile Amusement’. The 4th Marquess of Hertford acquired the portrait at the sale of Miss Bowles’s brother in 1850, where it was described as ‘the celebrated picture of a little girl with a spaniel.’