This is one of three almost identical pictures which Francis Grant painted of his daughter, Mary Isabella Grant. The artist exhibited one of these paintings at the Royal Academy in 1850, two years before Mary’s marriage to Sir Francis Geary of Oxon Heath, Kent, and four years before her premature death on 19 Jan 1854, at the age of just 22. The two autograph copies of the work may have been painted on the occasion of her marriage or as memorial pictures for other family members after her death.
A version of this painting at New Walk Museum, Leicester, shows Mary with a ring on the ring finger of her right hand and wearing two gold bangles. The inclusion of the jewellery suggests it may have been painted for her husband, who presumably presented her with the jewellery, and may indicate that it is not the first version, painted two years before her marriage, when Mary was just 18. Jewellery is not seen in either of the other two versions of the painting or in an engraved version, made by James Faed.
Sir Francis Grant, son of a Scottish Laird, took up painting professionally after having exhausted his £10,000 inheritance by his late 20s. An early enthusiasm for fox hunting led him to settle at Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, the centre of hunting society, where he studied under the well-known sporting painter, John Ferneley. In 1840 Grant’s portrait of Queen Victoria riding with Prime Minister Lord Melbourne and others in the Great Park at Windsor established his reputation and he soon became one of the most fashionable society painters of the day. He was elected a member of the Royal Academy in 1851 and its President in 1865. Grant died at the age of 75 and was buried at the cemetery near his country residence at Melton Mowbray.
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