Christopher Wood, author of “The Dictionary of Victorian Painters,” refers to Baxter (1809-1879) as a “London painter of fancy portraits and charming pretty girls in ‘The Keepsake’ tradition.” Wood includes an illustration of the artist’s work, “The Sisters,” from the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum, in his reference. His name may be familiar to many of us for the many reproductions, advertisements and postcards using his works. A serious artist, Baxter exhibited many times at the Royal Society of British Artists (RBA), of which he was a member, and the Royal Academy. He is well listed in Benezit’s “Dictionnnaire des Peintres...”
Baxter was fortunate as a painter who specialized in portraits of pretty girls to be living in the 19th century, when female beauty was a much-prized and popular theme; his paintings were in great demand in his own time. He painted his young ladies from all social classes, from the rustic to the aristocracy.
This watercolor is a fine example of his portrait work as it shows a great deal of his subject’s coyness, soulfulness and beauty. Our young gypsy girl is shown in a costume consisting of a red hooded cloak, a scarf atop her head and a long gathered blue skirt. In her hands are the tools of her trade; the playing cards used to tell fortunes. She seems to be telling her customer that good fortune is coming to them as she points to a nine of clubs. The girl’s face and hands were painted in great detail to show her expression; there definitely is mischief behind the girl’s eyes. Her wavy hair peeks out from her scarf, and the artist has given her a pair of pearl earrings. The simple, subtle background serves to keep our focus on his subject. The red cloak dominates the painting and determines the rest of the color scheme.
The painting is monogramed on the lower right. The title, “A Gipsy Girl,” and the artist’s name are inscribed on the lower part of the mat.
The portrait is housed in its original wood and gesso hand-gilded frame and hand-gilded slip. The frame has elaborate gesso work, as well as simple rounded edges.
The condition of the watercolor is excellent, with nothing at all to remark upon. The condition of the frame is also excellent. There is a slight amount of loss in the upper left corner and a small nibble on the upper right corner.
It measures 15-1/8 inches wide by 18-3/8 inches high, including the frame.
Perry-Joyce Fine Arts
Watercolor of a Gypsy Fortune Teller by Charles Baxter, RBA
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