The Cheat with the Ace of Diamonds
“Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese” at the Museum of Fine Arts, deals with a discordant ménage-a-trois of artists bound together by envy, talent and a strange version of love.
Sir Joshua Reynolds, A Child’s Portrait in Different Views: ‘Angel’s Heads,’ 1786-87
From the Tate Gallery:
The five year old Lady Frances Gordon sat to Reynolds for this unusual portrait in July and August 1786, and again in March 1787. Reynolds generally had very few portrait appointments during the summer months, reserving this time for work on character studies (known as ‘fancy pictures’) and subject pictures. It is not perhaps surprising, therefore, that the present composition, which is composed of a series of studies of Frances Gordon’s head from five different angles, is far more reminiscent of Reynolds’s fancy pictures than his portraits of named sitters.
Frances Gordon’s mother outlived her daughter by ten years and, on her death in 1841, she presented this picture to the National Gallery. There it was extensively copied, registers of copies kept by the National Gallery from 1846 to 1895 revealing no fewer than 314 full-size copies in oil. The popular appeal of the picture to Victorian taste is also indicated by its reproduction on decorative items, including the cover of an ivory-bound prayer book. Numerous photographic reproductions also exist, with titles such as ‘The Cherub Choir’. More recently, an image of the picture was used on a First Day Cover to promote the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children’s ‘Year of the Child’. Perhaps most unusual is the use of the image in badges awarded to student midwives at St. Mary’s Hospital, Manchester.