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Mrs Oswald

Photo credit: The National Gallery, London

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Zoffany has portrayed Mary Oswald at the age of about 50. Probably born in Kingston, Jamaica, she was the only child of Alexander Ramsay, a Glasgow-born merchant who settled in Jamaica, acquiring plantations there and in the South American colonies. In 1750, she married Richard Oswald, a Scottish entrepreneur, merchant, shipowner and slave trader who provided army supplies.

This portrait is one of Zoffany’s largest paintings and was probably commissioned to hang in the Oswald’s stately home of Auchincruive, three miles from Ayr in Scotland. Mrs Oswald’s costume and hairstyle suggest a date in the early 1760s. It was unusual for Zoffany to portray a female sitter on her own. He appears to have detected little zest for life in Mrs Oswald, and her pose in the wild natural setting seems only to emphasise her solitude.

The National Gallery, London



Mrs Oswald


about 1763-4


Oil on canvas


H 226.5 x W 158.8 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

Bought, 1938

Work type



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Normally on display at

The National Gallery, London

Trafalgar Square, London, Greater London WC2N 5DN England

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