Mary Ann Carpenter (Mrs. Thompson Forster), 1779
The tacking edges have been cut off, and there are several mended tears in the canvas. The largest tear is branched and extends from the edge of the red curtain, through the sitters left eye, and into the forehead. Another branch of the same tear extends into the right side of the feather hair ornament. There is a small tear in the green tablecloth located to the right of the sitter s right hand. Another tear, 3.5 centimeters long, is found above the sitter s right arm. In the dress, to the right of the left hand, are two tears, 2.3 and 7 centimeters long. An area of damage about 2.3 centimeters wide, probably the result of a puncture, is located in the shadow on the dress to the right of the book.
The ground is white and is evenly applied in moderate thickness. The ground does not hide the texture of the canvas weave and was likely applied by the artist.
Overlapping brushwork suggests that Earl painted most of the figure early, adding details in the hair and costume after the chair, table, curtain, and background were incorporated. A dark line of thin paint that now appears as pentimento on the sitter s left elbow suggests that the painter first outlined the forms with thin dark lines. Work generally appears to have progressed from dark to light in the painting of the dress. There is a moderate amount of impasto in the white highlights and in the flowers. Low impasto is evident on the chair s upholstery tacks and in the sitter s hair. The carpet was first laid in with a thin application and later rendered with opaque colors.
A semitransparent dark brown was used as the initial layer for painting the hair. The background was then added and the edges between the hair and background blend in some spots. Opaque brown and grayish-brown paint was then used to add detail and further describe the hair. These final details of the hair and the feather ornament were added after the underlying paint was partially dry. The green of the tablecloth and the red of the curtain were both finished with semitransparent paint. The background in the upper left was added after the table and most of the figure were painted.
There are small scattered losses as well as losses associated with damage to the fabric support. A slight flattening of impasto may be the result of past lining treatments. The paint surface shows some overall abrasion, likely from past cleaning attempts.
In 1972 an old glue lining was removed and replaced with a new fabric lining, attached with a with wax-resin adhesive. The painting also was cleaned during this treatment, at which time overpaint that covered the feather hair ornament was removed. Areas of loss also were revealed at that time.
The present varnish consists of a spray coating of Winton Semi-matte Picture Varnish (polycyclohexanone), applied in 1990, that also included a small amount of microcrystalline wax. This varnish is probably on top of a coating of Acryloid B-67, but no confirming record has been found. The varnish is in good condition, with no noticeable yellowing.