Maria Cosway (British, 1760-1838) A preparatory sketch for 'The death of Miss Gardiner'
Lot 47
Maria Cosway
(British, 1760-1838)
A preparatory sketch for 'The death of Miss Gardiner'
Sold for £1,375 (US$ 2,311) inc. premium
Auction Details
Lot Details
Maria Cosway (British, 1760-1838)
A preparatory sketch for 'The death of Miss Gardiner'.
Ink, gouache and watercolour on laid paper, bearing collector's stamp to the obverse (lower left) CARLO PRAYER.
Rectangular, 213mm (8 3/8in) wide
Provenance: Captain Carlo Prayer (1826-1900).
Literature: F. Lugt, Répertoire des catalogues de ventes publiques intéressant l'art ou la curiosité, no.1044.


  • We are grateful to Dr Stephen Lloyd, Curator of the Derby Collection, Knowsley Hall, for his assistance in cataloguing this work.

    It has been suggested that the present work could be a preparatory study for Cosway's oil painting titled, 'The Death of Miss Gardiner'. Painted in 1789, the canvas was successfully exhibited at the RA (no.101) during a period which saw a number of female artists exhibiting history paintings at the Academy's annual shows (see Gender and Art, ed. G. Perry, London, 1999, p.101,

    The scene portrays Miss Florinda Gardiner (1774-1786) in the final moments of her life, being comforted by her aunt, the Marchioness Townshend after expressing a desire to join her late mother in heaven following a vivid apparition of her form. Florinda Gardiner was the daughter of Luke Gardiner, 1st Viscount Mountjoy (1745-1798) and Elizabeth Montgomery (c.1751-1783), sister of Anne Montgomery (c.1752-1819), the second wife of Field Marshal George Townshend, 1st Marquess Townshend, PC (1724–1807). In 'The Poetry of the World' (ed. John Bell, 1788), later re-titled, 'The British Album' (Vols. I & II, 1790), a poem written by Marquess Townshend in the wake of his niece's death describes the event thus:

    'And panting breath announc'd her end was nigh:
    She turn'd, and smiling ask'd, "When shall I die?
    "In realms above my long-mourn'd mother join?
    "See, see her arms stretch'd out to meet with mine!"'

    Twelve year old Florinda was buried on 20 March 1786 at St Thomas's, Dublin.

    'The Death of Miss Gardiner' has been compared with Jacques-Louis David's 'Death of Socrates' (1787), which, in contrast, portrays a very public display of mourning for the central protagonist. Cosway's staged placement of her sitters and the heightened sense of pathos she has conveyed reflect her friend's influence on her work, whilst her modelling and use of light have been compared with the portraiture of Sir Joshua Reynolds and Angelica Kauffman (S. Lloyd, Richard and Maria Cosway: Regency Artists of Taste and Fashion, Edinburgh, 1995, p.46).

    The completed full-scale work, one of the artist's few signed and dated paintings known to survive and arguably one of her finest, currently resides in the collection of the Musée de la Révolution Française (Inv.1994-30), a departmental museum within the Château de Vizille, formerly the seat of the Dukes of Lesdiguières.
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