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Lady Brisco was born Caroline Alicia Fleming, the daughter of Gilbert Fane Fleming and Lady Camilla Bennet. In 1776, the year this portrait was completed, she married John Brisco (1739–1805). Her elaborate hairstyle – piled high, powdered with milled wheat starch, and ornamented with an ostrich feather was quite literally the ‘height’ of fashion in the 1760s. Such ostentatious styles were mocked mercilessly by the satirical cartoonists of the day. The sitter’s figure appears somewhat elongated; a factor strengthening the theory that Gainsborough intended to exhibit this piece at the Royal Academy the following year. This slight distortion was a pragmatic response to The RA’s crowded displays, which positioned full-length portraiture above head height.

English Heritage, Kenwood

London

Title

Lady Brisco (d.1822)

Date

c.1776

Medium

oil on canvas

Measurements

H 235.2 x W 148.5 cm

Accession number

88028784

Acquisition method

Iveagh Bequest, 1929

Work type

Painting

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Normally on display at

English Heritage, Kenwood

Hampstead Lane, London, Greater London NW3 7JR England

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