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Pastel - Unknown young woman
  • Unknown young woman
    Cotes, Francis R.A., born 1726 - died 1770
  • Enlarge image

Unknown young woman

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Britain (drawn)

  • Date:

    mid 18th century (drawn)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Cotes, Francis R.A., born 1726 - died 1770 (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Pastel on paper

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by Claude D. Rotch

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 52, The George Levy Gallery, case WS

Object Type
This portrait by Francis Cotes is a good example of a pastel from the 18th century, when pastel painting was at its most fashionable. 'Pastel' is a coloured crayon made out of pigment mixed with a water-soluble binder such as gum.

Pastels can be blended on paper to achieve a soft, dusty finish. Because this tonal technique is more like painting than drawing it is known as 'pastel painting'.

This portrait dates from around 1755-1764. These dates are based partly on the fact that Cotes did not begin to produce works of this quality until 1755, and partly on costume style and hair style.

Materials and Making
Pastel offered a number of advantages over oil. It was a quick medium to work in since no drying time was necessary, so the sitter spent less time at the artist's studio. Pastels were also cheaper than oils because they tended to be smaller in size, required fewer pigments and less time on the artist's part. Unlike oils, pastels also had to be protected with glass, an expensive commodity at this date, which gave them added lustre and glamour.

Physical description

Half-length portrait of a young woman, turned to and looking to front. The sitter is wearing a lace cap, tied with a pale blue ribbon, and a dress trimmed with lace and pale blue decoration.

Place of Origin

Britain (drawn)


mid 18th century (drawn)


Cotes, Francis R.A., born 1726 - died 1770 (artist)

Materials and Techniques

Pastel on paper


Height: 59.7 cm sight, Width: 44.1 cm

Object history note

This pastel, which was exhibited at Colnaghi's 'Old Master Drawings', 1952 (No.70), is in a contemporary carved frame.

Descriptive line

Portrait of an unknown woman. Pastel drawing by Francis Cotes, mid-18th century.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Victoria & Albert Museum Department of Prints and Drawings and Department of Paintings, Accessions 1962. London: HMSO, 1964.

Labels and date

British Galleries:
Before 1700, pastels were mostly used for preparatory sketches. During the 18th century, half-length pastel portraits became popular as works of art in their own right. They were particularly popular for portraits of women. Francis Cotes' work became well-known when his portraits of the famously beautiful Gunning sisters, known as the 'gorgeous Gunnings', were circulated as engravings. [27/03/2003]





Subjects depicted

Ribbon; Woman; Lace


Paintings; Drawings


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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