Lady Sarah Bunbury Sacrificing to the Graces

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Sir Joshua Reynolds
English, 1723–1792

Lady Sarah Bunbury Sacrificing to the Graces, 1763–65

Oil on canvas
95 1/2 x 59 3/4 in. (242.6 x 151.5 cm)
Mr. and Mrs. W. W. Kimball Collection, 1922.4468

Mannings 279

Lady Sarah Bunbury was famous for being the society beauty who attracted the attention of the future king George III when she was only fifteen. George was persuaded to marry a German princess instead of her, and a year after the royal marriage, Lady Sarah wed Sir Charles Bunbury in a match that did not survive for long. In this portrait, Sir Joshua Reynolds—the first president of the Royal Academy and a champion of the importance of classical artistic models—conferred upon her a flattering honorary citizenship in the ancient world. Dressed in a loose, vaguely Roman costume and surrounded by the art and artifacts of antiquity, Lady Sarah is cast as a devotee of the Three Graces, symbols of generosity and the mythical companions of Venus, the Roman goddess of love and beauty. Lady Sarah pours a libation into a smoking tripod, and one of the Graces seems to offer her a wreath, as if inviting the aristocratic beauty to join their number. As an academician, Reynolds valued historical subjects, but as a practicing painter, he made his living largely through portraiture. In this and other grand portraits, he found a way of combining the requirements of his patrons with the prestige of the classical tradition.

— Entry, Essential Guide, 2013, p. 215.

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

London, Society of Artists, 1765, no. 104, as “A lady sacrificing to the graces, whole length.”

London Royal Academy of Arts, Works by Old Masters and Deceased Masters of the British School, 1908, no. 153.

The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Great Portraits by Famous Painters, 1952 , no. 22.

Detroit Institute of Arts, Romantic Art in Britain: Paintings and Drawings, 1760–1860, 1968, no. 6, traveled to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Art Institute of Chicago, European Portraits, 1600–1900, in The Art Institute of Chicago, 1978, no. 8.

London, Royal Academy of Arts, Reynolds, 1986, no. 57.

Publication History

Pierre Jean Grosley, A Tour, to London; or New Observations on England, and Its Inhabitants, tr. by Thomas Nugent, vol. 2 (London, 1772), p. 39.

William Jackson, The Four Ages, Together with Essays on Various Subjects (London, 1798) pp. 172–73.

Edward Edwards, Anecdotes of Painters who have resided or been born in England with remarks on their productions (London, 1808), p. 189.

James Barry, The Works of James Barry, Esq., Historical Painter, vol. 1 (London, 1809), p. 22.

John Heneage Jesse, George Selwyn and His Contemporaries, vol. 2 (London, 1843), ill. (engraving of detail by J. Cook) opp. p. 88.

William Cotton, Sir Joshua Reynolds and His Works (London, 1856), p. 100.

William Cotton, A Catalogue of the Portraits Painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds, Knt., P.R.A. (London, 1857), p. 12.

Charles Robert Leslie and Tom Taylor, Life and Times of Sir Joshua Reynolds, with Notices of Some of His Contemporaries, vol. 1 (London, 1865), pp. 247–48, 250.

Edward Hamilton, A Catalogue Raisonné of the Engraved Works of Sir Joshua Reynolds, P.R.A. from 1755 to 1822 (London, 1884), p. 87.

Algernon Graves and William Vine Cronin, A History of the Works of Sir Joshua Reynolds, P.R.A., vol. 1 (London, 1899), pp. 124–25.

Sir Walter Armstrong, Sir Joshua Reynolds, First President of the Royal Academy (London and New York, 1900), ill. (photogravure) opp. p. 20, pp. 167, 196.

Lady Sarah Lennox, The Life and Letters of Lady Sarah Lennox 1745-1826, vol. 2 (London, 1901), opp. p. 12, ill.

Sir Walter Armstrong, Sir Joshua Reynolds, First President of the Royal Academy (London and New York, 1905), p. 204, ill. opp. p. 204.

Alfred Lys Baldry, Sir Joshua Reynolds, vol. 1 (London and New York, 1905) p. xxix.

Fitzgerald Molloy, Sir Joshua and His Circle, vol. I (New York, 1906), pp. 196-197, ill.

Max Osborn, Joshua Reynolds (Bielefeld and Leipzig, 1908), p. 110, fig. 85.

Freeman O’Donoghue, Catalogue of Engraved British Portraits Preserved in the Department of Prints and Drawings in the British Museum, vol. 3 (London, 1912), p. 309.

This Year’s Art 1913, compiled by A. C. R. Carter (London, 1913), p. 371.

Algernon Graves, A Century of Loan Exhibitions: 1813-1912, vol. III (New York, 1914), p. 1068.

“Mrs. Kimball Buys a Reynolds,” American Art News 14, 5 (1915), p. 1, ill.

“The Kimball Collection,” Bulletin of the Art Institute of Chicago 14, 5 (1920), pp. 75, ill., 77.

Art Institute of Chicago, Handbook of Sculpture, Architecture, Paintings, and Drawings (Chicago, 1920), p. 60, no. 7650.

Art Institute of Chicago, Forty-Fourth Annual Report (Chicago, 1922), p. 49, ill.

Art Institute of Chicago, Handbook of Sculpture, Architecture and Paintings (Chicago, 1922), p. 65, no. 765.

Art Institute of Chicago, Handbook of Sculpture, Architecture, and Paintings (Chicago, 1923), p. 65, no. 765.

Marguerite B. Williams, “Valuable Collection of Paintings Added To Chicago’s Art Treasures,” America Today—Fort Dearborn Magazine (Mid-Winter, 1924), p. 11, ill.

Art Institute of Chicago, A Guide to the Paintings in the Permanent Collection (Chicago, 1925), pp. 29, ill., 150, no. 765.

W. T. Whitley, Artists and Their Friends in England, 1700–1799, vol. 1 (London, 1928), p. 209.

Art Institute of Chicago, A Guide to the Paintings in the Permanent Collection (Chicago, 1932), pp. 83, ill., 169.

Edgar Wind, “Humanitätsidee und heroisiertes Porträt in der englischen Kultur des 18. Jahrhunderts,” in Vortäge der Bibliothek Warburg 1930/1931: England und die Antike, ed. Fritz Saxl (Berlin and Leipzig, 1932), pp. 217–18.

C. H. Collins Baker, British Painting (London, 1933), p. 284.

Ellis K. Waterhouse, Reynolds (London, 1941), pp. 12, 55–56, 101.

Charles Mitchell, “Three Phases of Reynolds’s Method,” Burlington Magazine 80 (1942), p. 40.

Nikolaus Pevsner, “Heritage of Compromise: A Note on Sir Joshua Reynolds Who Died One Hundred and Fifty Years Ago,” Architectural Review 91 (1942), pp. 37–38, ill.

Art Institute of Chicago, An Illustrated Guide to the Collections of The Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago, 1945), p. 34.

Art Institute of Chicago, An Illustrated Guide to the Collections of The Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago, 1948), p. 31.

“Loan Exhibition of Great Portraits Sponsored by Friends of the Institute,” Bulletin of The Minneapolis Institute of Arts 41 (1952), p. 152.

Ellis K. Waterhouse, Painting in Britain, 1530 to 1790 (London, 1953), pp. 168, 187, pl. 131.

Art Institute of Chicago, A Brief Guide to the Collections (Chicago, [1956]), p. 32.

Nikolaus Pevsner, The Englishness of English Art (London, 1956), pp. 52–53, fig. 23.

Derek Hudson, Sir Joshua Reynolds: A Personal Study (London, 1958), pp. 85, 175.

Joseph T. A. Burke, “Romney’s Leigh Family (1768): A Link between the Conversation Piece and the Neo-Classical Portrait Group,” Annual Bulletin of the National Gallery of Victoria 2 (1960), pp. 10, ill., 11, 13.

Art Institute of Chicago, Paintings in The Art Institute of Chicago: A Catalogue of the Picture Collection (Chicago, 1961), p. 399.

David Irwin, English Neoclassical Art, Studies in Inspiration and Taste (London, 1966), pp. 77, 88, 152, 155, pl. 88.

Frederick A. Sweet, “Great Chicago Collectors,” Apollo 84 (September 1966), pp. 195–96.

Ann Hope, “Cesare Ripa’s Iconology and the Neoclassical Movement,” Apollo 86 (October 1967), suppl. 9, “Notes on British Art,” p. 4.

John Maxon, The Art Institute of Chicago, (London, 1970), pp. 60, ill., 61, 186.

Wilmarth Sheldon Lewis, See for Yourself (New Haven, 1971), pp. 60–70, ill.

Anita Brookner, Greuze: The Rise and Fall of an Eighteenth-Century Phenomenon (London, 1972), p. 112.

Ellis K. Waterhouse, Reynolds (Oxford and New York, 1973), pl. 37, p. 177.

Gerhard Charles Rump, George Romney (1734-1802): Zur Bildform der Bürgerlichen Mitte in der Englischen Neoklassik (Hildesheim and New York, 1974), vol. 1, pp. 60-61, vol 2., fig. 11.

David Piper, ed., The Genius of British Painting (London and New York, 1975), p. 166, ill.

Joseph Burke, English Art, 1714–1800 (Oxford, 1976), p. 206.

Edward Mead Johnson, Francis Cotes: Complete Edition with a Critical Essay and a Catalogue (Oxford, 1976), pp. 28-29, fig. 81.

John D. Morse, Old Master Paintings in North America (New York, 1979), pp. 236–37, ill.

Aileen Ribeiro, The Dress Worn at Masquerades in England, 1730 to 1790, and Its Relation to Fancy Dress in Portraiture (New York and London, 1984), p. 272, ch. 5, fig. 44.

Richard Dorment, British Painting in the Philadelphia Museum of Art from the Seventeenth through the Nineteenth Century (Philadelphia and London, 1986), p. 294, under no. 82.

David Mannings and Nicholas Penny, “Arising from the Reynolds Exhibition,” Burlington Magazine 128 (1986), p. 761.

Robin Simon, The Portrait in Britain and America, with a Biographical Dictionary of Portrait Painters, 1680–1914 (Oxford, 1987), pp. 76, 84, 103, 139, pl. 22, fig. 96.

Albert Boime, Art in an Age of Revolution, 1750–1800 (Chicago and London, 1987), p. 200, fig. 3.5.

The Art Institute of Chicago, Master Paintings in The Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago, 1988), p. 43, ill.

Malcolm Warner, “The Sources and Meaning of Reynolds’s Lady Sarah Bunbury Sacrificing to the Graces,” The Art Institute of Chicago Museum Studies 15 (1989), pp. 7–19, figs. 1, 5.

Robert Hughes, Nothing If Not Critical: Selected Essays on Art and Artists (New York, 1990), p. 50.

Desmond Shaw-Taylor, The Georgians: Eighteenth-Century Portraiture and Society (London, 1990), pp. 165–72, ill.

Renate Prochno, Joshua Reynolds (Weinheim, 1990), pp. 84–85, fig. 50.

John Hayes, The Portrait in British Art: Masterpieces Bought with the Help of the National Art Collections Fund, exh. cat. London, National Portrait Gallery, 1991, pp. 21, 100, under no. 33, fig. 14.

Peter Cannon-Brookes, ed., The Painted Word: British History Painting, 1750–1830, exh. cat. (London, Heim Gallery, 1991), p. 55, under no. 13.

Martin Postle, “The Golden Age, 1760–1790,” in The British Portrait, 1660–1960, intro. by Roy Strong (Woodridge, 1991), p. 193, pl. 180.

Stephen Butler, Gainsborough (London, 1992), p. 7, ill.

Art Institute of Chicago, The Art Institute of Chicago: The Essential Guide (Chicago, 1993), p. 141, ill. and subsequent editions

Katharine Hart, James Gillray: Prints by the Eighteenth-Century Master of Caricature, exh. cat. (Hanover, New Hampshire, Hood Museum of Art, 1994), pp. 11–12, fig. 2.

Christopher M. S. Johns, “Portrait Mythology: Antonio Canova’s Portraits of the Bonapartes,” Eighteenth Century Studies 28 (1994), p. 119.

Barbara Maria Stafford, Artful Science: Enlightenment Entertainment and the Eclipse of Visual Education (Cambridge and London, 1994), pp. 167-168, ill., 173, 309, xiv.

Stella Tillyard, Aristocrats: Caroline, Emily, Louisa, and Sarah Lennox 1740-1832 (New York, 1994), pp. xxv, 138, 315, ill.

Martin Postle, Sir Joshua Reynolds: The Subject Pictures (Cambridge, 1995), p. 312.

Marilyn Stokstad, Art History (New York, 1995), pp. 941-942, ill., and subsequent editions

Gill Perry, “‘The British Sappho’: Borrowed Identities and the Representation of Women Artists in Late Eighteenth-Century British Art,” Oxford Art Journal 18 (1995), pp. 47-48, ill.

Andrew Graham-Dixon, A History of British Art (London, 1996), p. 106.

Richard Wendorf, Sir Joshua Reynolds: The Painter in Society (London, 1996), p. 14.

Susan Wise and Malcolm Warner, French and British Paintings from 1600 to 1800 in The Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago, 1996), pp. 276–282, ill.

Susan Rather, “Carpenter, Tailor, Shoemaker, Artist: Copley and Portrait Painting around 1700,” Art Bulletin 79 (1997), p. 273, fig. 2.

Marcia Pointon, Strategies for Showing: Women, Possession, and Representation in English Visual Culture: 1665-1800 (Oxford, 1997), pp. 60, 71, 175, pl. 25.

Philip Ayres, Classical Culture and the Idea of Rome in Eighteenth-Century England (Cambridge, 1997), pp. 150, pl. 29.

Thomas Fleming, Liberty! The American Revolution (New York, 1997), p. 18, ill.

Thomas W. Gaehtgens, “L’Art des Sociétés,” in Histoire Artistique de L’Europe: Le XVIIIe Siècle, vol. 3, ed. Thomas W. Gaehtgens and Krzysztof Pomian (Paris, 1998), p. 280, ill.

Gill Perry, “‘Mere face painters’? Hogarth, Reynolds and ideas of academic art in eighteenth-century Britain,” in Art and its Histories: Academies, Museums and Canons of Art, eds. Gill Perry and Colin Cunningham (New Haven and London, 1999), pp. 129-130, ill.

Hugh Honour and John Fleming, A World History of Art, 5th ed. (London, 1999), p. 632, ill.

Aileen Ribeiro "Muses and Mythology: Classical Dress in British Eighteenth-Century Female Portraiture," in Defining Dress: Dress as Object, Meaning and Identity, ed. Amy de la Haye and Elizabeth Wilson (Manchester and New York, 1999), pp. 108-109, ill.

James Lawson, Van Dyck: Paintings and Drawings (Munich, London, and New York, 1999), p. 14.

Alex Kidson, Earlier British Paintings in the Lady Lever Art Gallery (Norwich, 1999), p. 137, ill.

Stephanie Goda Tasch, Studien zum weiblichen Rollenporträt in England von Anthonis van Dyck bis Joshua Reynolds (Weimar, 1999), pp. 146-149, 154, 369, fig. 91.

Beth Fowkes Tobin, Picturing Imperial Power: Colonial Subjects in Eighteenth-Century British Painting (Durham and London, 1999), pp. 209-211, ill.

David Mannings, Sir Joshua Reynolds: A Complete Catalogue of his Paintings (London and New Haven, 2000), vol. 1, pp. 111–112, no. 279, vol. 2, p. 306, fig. 612.

Roy Strong, The Spirit of Britain: A Narrative History of the Arts (New York, 2000), p. 411, ill.

Malcolm Warner and Robyn Asleson, eds., Great British Paintings from American Collections: Holbein to Hockney (Norwich, 2000), p. 5, ill.

Gillen D’Arcy Wood, The Shock of the Real: Romanticism and Visual Culture, 1760-1860 (New York, 2001), pp. 55-56, ill.

Fernando Mazzocca, Roberto Pancheri, and Alessandro Casagrande, eds., Un ritrattista nell’Europa delle corti: Givoanni Battista Lampi, 1751-1830 (Trento, 2001), p. 30, ill.

Amelia Rauser, “The Butcher-Kissing Duchess of Devonshire: Between Caricature and Allegory in 1784,” Eighteenth-Century Studies 36 (2002), p. 38.

Marvin Perry, J. Wayne Baker, and Pamela Pfeiffer Hollinger, The Humanities in the Western Tradition: Ideas and Aesthetics, vol. II (Boston and New York, 2003), pp. 161-162, ill.

Martin Postle, “Joshua Reynolds” in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, vol. 46, (Oxford, 2004), p. 555.

Erika Langmuir, The National Gallery Companion Guide (London, 2004), p. 330.

Jamie W. Johnson, “Joshua Reynolds 1723-1792” in Encyclopedia of the Romantic Era, 1760-1850, vol. 2, (New York and London, 2004), p. 944.

Larry J. Feinberg, “A Brief History of the Old Masters in the Art Institute of Chicago,” Museum Studies 32 (2006), pp. 10-11, ill.

Whitney Moeller and Anne Rorimer, Michael Asher: George Washington at the Art Institute of Chicago, 1979 and 2005 (Chicago, 2006), pp. 28, ill., 32, 87, ill.

Sam Smiles, ed., Sir Joshua Reynolds: The Acquisition of Genius (Bristol, 2009), p. 113.

Iris Wien, Joshua Reynolds: Mythos und Metapher (Munich, 2009), pp. 88-90, ill., 93-94, 96, 99-100.

Robin Underdahl and Thomas Sinsteden, The Red McCombs English & Irish Silver Collection: Every Piece Tells a Story (San Antonio, 2010), p. 116, ill.

Jill Johnson Deupi, “The Antique Legacy from the Middle Ages to the Enlightenment,” in A Companion to Greek Art, ed. Tyler Jo Smith and Dimitris Plantzos, vol. 2 (Malden, 2012), p. 647.

Ownership History

Commissioned by Sir Thomas Charles Bunbury, sixth Bt. (d. 1821), husband of the sitter, apparently for 250 gns [Malcolm Cormack, “The Ledgers of Sir Joshua Reynolds,” Walpole Society 42 (1968–70, pp. 112, 145]; by descent to his nephew’s grandson, Sir Henry Charles John Bunbury, tenth Bt., Barton Hall and Mildenhall, Suffolk, to at least 1905 [Armstrong 1905]. Charles J. Wertheimer (d. 1911), London, by 1908 [according to London 1908]; sold Christie’s, London, May 10, 1912, no. 63, to Sulley [see London 1986]. Henry Reinhardt Gallery, New York and Chicago, by 1915; sold by Reinhardt to Mrs. W. W. Kimball (d. 1921), Chicago, 1915 [see American Art News 1915]; on loan to the Art Institute of Chicago from 1920; bequeathed to the Art Institute, 1922.