La Salle University Art Museum
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Lady Elizabeth Foster

Richard Cosway, R.A.

Lady Elizabeth Foster, 18th Century

Oil on Canvas


Cosway, noted 18th Century English painter and draughtsman, is primarily known for his large repertoire of miniature paintings and tinted drawings. While he produced fewer full-scale oil paintings, like this one of Lady Elizabeth Foster, his full-scale portraits maintain a similar style and color palette to Cosway’s miniatures. His work is marked by a reserved use of color, employing soft grays around his sitters’ heads contrasted by the vibrant reds and blues for the sitters’ skin and the surrounding landscape.

Condition of the Artwork (2009):

There are some small, isolated areas of insecure paint along the top edge, upper left, in the left central background, and in the right central background. There is a large spot of old filling and inpainting in her cheek; it presents a good appearance. A tear in the central left background has been carefully filled and inpainted. Ultra violet light reveals numerous small spots and lines of inpainting under the layers of natural resin varnish; these are visible in the background drape, in her leftmost sleeve, near the edges, along the slight stretcher bar creases, and in the lower right corner. 

Conservation Treatment Proposed: 

  • The varnish, although yellowed, presents a good appearance. In consultation with the curator and director, it was decided that varnish removal was not necessary at this point in time.
  • Remove/reduce surface grime with appropriate cleaning agents.
  • Consolidate insecure paint with a conservation quality adhesive. Apply a thin, isolating layer of a conservation quality varnish overall.
  • Fill and inpaint paint losses and abrasions with conservation quality materials.
  • Apply a conservation quality finish varnish overall, if needed.
  • All materials used will be appropriate and conservation quality. All work will adhere to the highest standards of the field.

Estimated Cost of Treatment: $2,000.00