Welcome to Arts Online

Te Kete Ipurangi Navigation:

Te Kete Ipurangi

Te Kete Ipurangi user options:

Back to the 'Jump link' navigation, at the top of the page

'Elizabeth Solomon', 1862

Chapter navigation:

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

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

Download Word file (Word 128 KB)

Back to the 'Jump link' navigation, at the top of the page