Object Image

The Painter's Daughters with a Cat

This portrait of Gainsborough's daughters is likely to have been painted in Bath a year or so after the family moved there in late 1759. Mary appears to be about ten or eleven years old, and Margaret about eight or nine. Margaret leans her forehead back against her sister's cheek as she holds their barely sketched-in cat, while Mary wraps her arms around her little sister, partly to help her with the writhing cat - whose tail she appears to pull - but also in a moving gesture of tenderness. No other portrait of this date conveys so strongly the sense that it is painted from life.

Although the faces have been painted, most of the picture is unfinished. The feathery pattern of gold, blue and gre...

probably c. 1760-1
Oil on canvas
75.6 x 62.9cm
Image and text © The National Gallery, London, 2023

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