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Gainsborough portrait 'may have been painted over'

17th March 2011

A portrait of Susannah 'Suky' Trevelyanby by Thomas Gainsborough that has hung in a Northumberland country house for 250 years may have been painted over, it has been claimed.

For generations, it was alleged the portrait at Wallington Hall had been altered by rival painter Sir Joshua Reynolds, until experts were finally called in to examine the painting.

Nicky Grimaldi, a senior lecturer in conservation and fine art at Northumbria University who led the research, told the BBC there is 'clear evidence' that changes were made to Ms Trevelyanby's dress, jewellery and hat.

'While it was not uncommon for pictures to be tweaked as fashions changed, I am surprised by the extent of the reworking,' she added.

The examination also compared the Wallington painting with a Reynolds portrait of Charlotte Walpole, Countess of Dysart, noting many similarities in the dresses worn by both women.

Lloyd Langley, house and collections manager at Wallington, said it is 'too early' to determine the extent to which Reynolds or another artist may have reworked the painting.

In 2009, an original Gainsborough work was discovered at an art auction in the US after mistakenly being credited to a follower of 17th-century Dutch artist Jacob van Ruisdael

© W&G Foyle Ltd
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