22 Items in this Learning Collection

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Portrait of a Lady, probably Anne Simms Reeve (née Browne) of Brancaster Hall, Norfolk

Accession Number

Portrait of a Lady, probably Anne Simms Reeve (née Browne) of Brancaster Hall, Norfolk

Frederick Sandys

Object Creation Date

Medium & Support
oil on panel

27 in. x 23 in. x 2 in. ( 68.58 cm x 58.42 cm x 5.08 cm )

Credit Line
Museum purchase made possible by a gift from Helmut Stern

Label copy
March 28 2009
This striking painting, which features a woman bedecked in yellow satin, black velvet, pearls, and gold against a dark maroon background, is an outstanding example of mid-Victorian portraiture. While there is much evidence to suggest that the sitter is Anne Reeve (née Browne) of Brancaster Hall, Norfolk, her exact identity is still open to question; in any case, the sitter’s attire and accessories are signs of a person of high social standing. Like many of the Pre-Raphaelite artists with whom he associated, Sandys had an affinity for fifteenth- and sixteenth-century German and Flemish art because of its painstaking attention to detail, crisp delineation of forms, and enamel-like surface. Here he paints on a wood panel, which, when properly prepared before painting, provides a seamless surface that allows for the kind of precision not possible with paintings on canvas. Sandys captures the woman’s likeness in meticulous detail, from her high forehead, hazel eyes, and elongated neck to her long lashes and the light wave in her hair. Such attention to detail can also be seen in the treatment of the exotic oleander plants—imported from the Mediterranean—and the gothic-inspired ornamental textile in the background.

Subject matter
The precise identification of the sitter is a bit problematic, but there is much evidence to suggest she is Anne Simms Reeve, the sister of Philip Bedingfeld, LLP, JP of Ditchingham Hall, Norfolk, and daughter of William Browne of Tichwell, Norfolk, who married B. Simms Reeve, Q.C. of nearby Brancaster in 1854.
Like many of the Pre-Raphaelite artists with whom he associated, Sandys had a penchant for 15th-16th-century Flemish and German art, which is evidenced by the meticulous attention to detail, crisp delineation of forms, highly-finished enamel-like surface, along with the lush brocade and exotic foliage in the background of this panel painting.

Physical Description
Half-length portrait of a young woman facing right with dark brown hair wearing a yellow satin dress. The upper part of her bodice is trimmed with black ribbons arranged in vertical stripes. She wears gold ovoid pendant earrings, and a strand of pearls in her hair. In the background are branches of oleander, and to the left of the sitter, is a panel of brocaded textile of late medieval design.

Primary Object Classification

Primary Object Type

Collection Area

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women (female humans)

3 Related Resources

Victorian Studies
(Part of 2 Learning Collections)
Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and Associated Artists
(Part of: Artist Associations and Art Movements)
School Pictures Tour
(Part of: Docent Thematic Tours)

& Author Notes

Web Use Permitted

On display

UMMA Gallery Location ➜ AMH, 2nd floor ➜ 206 (Thomas H. and Polly W. Bredt Gallery)