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'Elizabeth Solomon', 1862

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Acknowledgements:
Copyright Reproduced courtesy of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
Creator Richard Noble, artist, 1862
Identifiers TLF resource R3741
Source Art Gallery of South Australia
Description:

This is an 1862 portrait in oils (91 cm x 71 cm) by Richard Noble (1828-1900), which depicts a stylishly dressed woman called Elizabeth Solomon in an indoors setting. A large classical column, partly revealed in the far right background, suggests that the subject lives in a grand house. It is a three-quarter portrait, showing the subject from the knees upwards. Solomon is seated, looking squarely at the viewer with a slight smile. Her right arm rests lightly on the arm of a chair, while her other arm is slightly forward so that her left hand, which bears a gold wedding band and holds a lace handkerchief, rests in her lap. She is seated on a red upholstered 'chaise lounge' (a lounge chair with a high back and an armrest at one end). She wears a black velvet skirt and a jacket that is partly open, revealing an elaborately embroidered blouse with lace collar and cuffs. She is also wearing a large gold brooch and earrings encrusted with baroque (irregularly shaped) pearls. A formal centre-part hairstyle frames her oval face.

Educational value:
  • This asset is a colonial portrait painting - portraiture was the primary economic mainstay for many artists in early colonial Australia; it was portraiture, and not landscape painting, that dominated the style of art made between the 1830s and the mid-1850s in the older colonies of New South Wales and Victoria.
  • It is a very fine example of work by Richard Noble, who was one of the many professional portrait painters working in the mid-19th century in New South Wales - Noble was a successful portraitist and landscape painter from the 1850s to the mid-1860s; his portraits were characterised by sensitive interpretations of his subjects and accurate renditions of fashionable costuming and jewellery.
  • It demonstrates Noble's particular skills as a portraitist - the reduction of the background to dark tonal shapes has the effect of providing a neutral backdrop for the contrasts of dark and light which form the broad areas of face, hands and clothing; the tonal modelling within the face, particularly around the neck, chin and cheeks areas, creates a strong three-dimensional illusion; the treatment of the eyes, with their highlights and surrounding shadows, demonstrates why Noble was such a sought-after portraitist; his skills are also evident in the depiction of the lacework and jewellery, in which he has captured qualities of translucency and intricate workmanship.
  • It documents colonial fashion and clothing technologies of the period - the collar, cuffs and waistband of the elaborately embroidered blouse are made of very high-quality Honiton handmade lace (made in Belgium, particularly Brussels), which only the wealthy of the day could afford; the black velvet jacket with very wide sleeves was highly fashionable at the time; the large brooch and pearl earrings were most likely gifts from the sitter's husband, John.
  • It is a direct link to a generation of early colonial settlers - Elizabeth Solomon's father-in-law was the notorious convict 'Ikey' Solomon, who was transported to Tasmania in the 1830s and on whom Charles Dickens based his character Fagin in 'Oliver Twist'; Ikey's son John became a successful gold bullion merchant in Sydney, and commissioned this and his own portrait to demonstrate his success

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