Chicks in a Basket

Catharine da Costa (fl. 1712-1730)


This charming early 18th century watercolour portrait shows a young child walking in a pastoral landscape with trees and a lake. Carrying a basket of lively chicks, the child is dressed, just like Mamma would have been, in a coral pink dress with a lace stomacher and cuffed sleeves, a stylish tricorn hat trimmed with an ostrich feather tucked under his/her arm. Almost stealing the show is the delightful little dog skipping alongside the child.

On the basis of comparison with a signed portrait in the collection of the Jewish Historical Museum in Amsterdam, this portrait has been traditionally ascribed to the hand of the first female Anglo-Jewish portrait artist, Catharine da Costa. Born in London in 1679 to Portuguese parents, Catherine studied painting under the miniaturist Bernard Lens III. Her portrait commissions came from close family and from friends within the Jewish community. Upon her death in 1756, Catherine was buried at Mile End Jewish cemetery.

Painted in watercolour on card, the portrait is set with a wooden mount within a dark wood frame with a inner gilded slip. The facial features have faded a little but overall the portrait is in fine condition.

Item Ref. 7228

Size: framed, 274 x 245mm (10¾ x 9⅝")

Provenance: Bonhams, May 2007