Mrs. Crofts' Secret by Kristen Kimberling

Our current exhibition, Hail, Britannia!, includes several works from the Dixon permanent collection. Dixon Curator, Julie Pierotti, details the works from the Dixon collection she chose to include in the show in a previous blog post.  One of these paintings, Portrait of Mrs. Richard Crofts by Sir Joshua Reynolds, was purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Hugo Dixon in 1956.  When it was originally painted in 1775, the painting was a companion to her husband’s portrait, also by Sir Joshua Reynolds. As the paintings traveled through the decades, both portraits were cut down from their original full-length size in the mid-1850s, probably to make the work more desirable for sale. But that wasn’t the only alteration made to the portraits. Mrs. Crofts was hiding something else.   

Have you ever heard of a painting being x-rayed to see if any hidden mysteries lay beneath the layers of paint?  In the early 1980s, Portrait of Mrs. Richard Crofts was examined by a conservator and x-rays were taken of the painting.  Much to the surprise of the Dixon staff, a small statue was found beneath the top layers of paint and behind the feathers of Mrs. Crofts’ fan.  As you can see from the “before” photograph, it was also apparent that much of the foliage on the left side of the painting had been added to cover up the statue.  There has been some speculation as to why the statue was covered up, but the reason for the alteration remains unknown.  The painting was restored to its original state in the 1980s, and Mrs. Crofts looks as beautiful as ever.   

Mrs. Crofts before...

Mr. and Mrs. Crofts (after)...


Sir Joshua Reynolds, Portrait of Mrs. Richard Crofts, 1775; Oil on canvas; Bequest of Mr. and Mrs. Hugo N. Dixon, 1975.2

Sir Joshua Reynolds, Mr. Richard Crofts, 1775; Oil on canvas; Richard L. Feigen & Co.

-Kristen Kimberling, Dixon Registrar

Posted by Chantal Drake at 3:01 PM
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