At Bath Spa

William Read, 1788


During the late 18th century Bath was at the height of its popularity as a spa resort with a steady influx of well-heeled visitors arriving to take the waters. This made it a haven for portrait artists seeking work, amongst them William Read who was commissioned to paint this unnamed couple in 1788.

Seated before a classical stone pillar with a glimpse of sunset sky, the gentleman is wearing a blue frock coat with a deep collar and large brass buttons over a white waistcoat and frilled chemise, his cuffs trimmed with lace and his wig powdered. His wife wears a pale blue dress with narrow sleeves, a black sash and a white bodice edged with pearls over a lace fichu, her curled hair powdered and decorated with a rope of pearls.

Both portraits are signed and dated ‘Read / 1788’ and are housed in the original pearwood frames with convex glass. There is some discolouration around the outside edge of the lady mostly covered by the frame and perhaps minor flaking to the opaque white of her fichu. Under magnification, the gentleman has two pinhead spots of paint loss towards the bottom of his coat

Little is known about William Read who was working between 1778 and 1796. He exhibited three miniatures at the Royal Academy. Examples of his work are few and far between.

Item Ref. 7134

Size: framed, 137 x 115mm