ROMNEY, George
(b. 1734, Dalton-in-Furness, d. 1802, Kendal)

Study for Elizabeth Warren as Hebe

Pencil, ink and wash on paper, 380 x 215 mm
National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh

Romney was born in Lancashire and trained as a cabinet-maker before turning to painting; after visits to Paris and Rome he established himself as a fashionable portraitist in London, rivalling Joshua Reynolds and Thomas Gainsborough. He developed a distinctive style of draughtsmanship, often employing swathes of dark ink to establish the main features and key accents of light in his paintings. This impressive drawing is related to a portrait of Elizabeth Warren (National Museums and Galleries, Cardiff), commissioned by her father, which shows her at about the age of sixteen, just before her marriage to Viscount Bulkeley. It was the first major portrait Romney worked on after his return from Italy, and he made a number of preparatory studies for it, carefully refining his ideas. Hebe, an ideal personification of youth, was the cup-bearer of the gods, and in the final work Romney depicts his sitter before a cascade, with a vase before her, and an eagle, representing Jupiter, ominously hovering above.