Arts Everyday Living: The World of the 18th Century-Portrait of a Nun? A Noblewoman? Or Both?

Nicolas de Largilliere, Elizabeth Throckmorton, Canoness of the Order of the Dames Augustines Anglaises, 1729, oil on canvas, Ailsa Mellon Bruce, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.


Title: Elizabeth Throckmorton, Canoness

Order of the Dames Augustines Anglaises, 1729

Artist: Nicolas de Largilliere (1656-1746)

I have always been drawn to this 18th century depiction of a nun by French portraitist Nicolas de Largilliere that hangs at the National Gallery of Art. Her lovely face, with its rosy complexion, framed by the white headpiece and wimple as well as a flowing black veil. While the rest of her attire consists of a complex network of folds, moving across the surface of the material. Notice, too, the graceful strength of her hand that holds a brown covered prayer book.

Her name is Elizabeth Throckmorton, the daughter of British baronet Sir Robert Throckmorton as indicated by the gold lettering at the top of the painting. Already 35, she would be soon be appointed as the canoness or head of a convent in France, living there until her death at 66. Largilliere, who created some 1,500 portraits including royal icons such as the Sun King Louis XIV,* uses a free and expressive brushstroke in this work, done in the latter part of his prolific career.

*According to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. website





In the public domain, courtesy of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

The National Gallery of Art does not endorse or approve use of the above image or any of the material on this website. Nor has the National Gallery of Art participated in any projects utilizing the said image.

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