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Joseph Highmore's portrait of the novelist and publisher Samuel Richardson is a well-documented example of personal symbolism in a portrait. It was painted for the author's admirer, Lady Dorothy Bradshaigh, who proposed this well-developed composition: 'I would choose to have you drawn in your study, a table or desk by you, with pen, ink and paper; one letter just sealed, which I shall fancy is to me.' She left artist and sitter to decide the size and Richardson added his own tribute to Lady Bradshaigh and her husband by having a copy of a portrait of them included over the fireplace.
oil on canvas
H 52.7 x W 36.8 cm
Purchased, 1896. On long-term loan to Beningbrough Hall, Yorkshire