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Genre, Sylvia, Sir Joshua Reynolds, Antique Print, London, 1791 (Sold)

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Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792)
J. Jones, London: 1791
Black and white engraving
13 x 9 inches

Portrait of a cheerful, barefoot little girl standing on a stepping stone in the middle of a brook. “Sylvia” may be her name, or it may be an allegorical title personifying her as an inhabitant of the sylvan, or woodland, setting of the portrait. “Fancy pictures,” which were a combination portrait and genre scene, became very popular at the end of the 18th century. One type consisted of middle-class patrons, dressed as peasants or farmers, in staged scenes of rural life. This appears to be in that genre.

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Sir Joshua Reynolds was the foremost portrait painter in England in the 18th century, and was extremely influential on later generations of artists. His poses were intended to invoke classical values and to enhance the dignity of his sitters, as is evident in his treatment of this young rural girl. His style incorporated strong lighting, rich color and bravura paint handling. He also made history and “fancy pictures.” As first president of the Royal Academy in London, he significantly raised the profile of art and artists in Britain. Reynolds is also known for his eloquent Discourses on Art, delivered to the students and members of the Academy between 1769 and 1790.

John Jones, the publisher, was a London-based engraver and printseller active from 1775. He was a mezzotint and stipple engraver mainly of portraits by Reynolds, Romney and others, who published most of his plates himself. He exhibited at the Society of Artists from 1780-91 and served as Engraver Extraordinary to the Prince of Wales from 1790-97.


Maxted, Ian. “The London book trades 1775-1800: a preliminary checklist of members.” Exeter Working Papers in British Book Trade History. 2001. (15 April 2002).

“Sir Joshua Reynolds.” The Grove Dictionary of Art. New York: Macmillan. 2000. (15 April 2002).

Additional information


18th Century