Unknown Woman, formerly known as Mrs Crouch

Artist or maker:
English School
previously attributed to Joshua Reynolds (British, b.1723, d.1792)
dated stylistically
Place of production:
England, United Kingdom
oil on canvas
Type of object:
Accession number:


Once thought to be by Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792) and to be of the renowned actress and singer, Anna Maria Crouch (1763-1805), it is now believed to be a late 18th-century English portrait of an unknown woman. The quality of the painting and the appearance of the sitter makes the earlier attribution and subject highly unlikely. The woman certainly does not look like the various paintings of Anna, such as George Romney's painting at Kenwood, and Harding's engraving after Barry in the National Portrait Gallery.

In 1883, Ferdinand de Rothschild purchased the painting from the dealer Thomas Agnew & Sons who acquired it from the 5th Marquess of Lansdowne, Henry Fitzmaurice. Landsdowne had bought it himself from a dealer in 1861. These transactions, and the attribution to Reynolds, indicate the strength of the demand for pictures by the great British artists of the late 18th century in the last decades of the 19th. Ferdinand clearly believed the attribution and subject identification. He exhibited the painting at the Royal Academy Exhibition in 1899 with these details, along with other important works from his collection.

However, it is evident that the nature of the painting had begun to be questioned in the 1890s and early 1900s. Alice de Rothschild, Ferdinand's sister, made notes about the painting collection after her brother's death. She wrote 'As the portrait bears no resemblance to others of Mrs Crouch it may be questioned whether the subject is correctly described'. The portrait was published by Reynolds at the turn of the century, but this was rejected by the scholar of Reynolds, Professor Waterhouse, in the 1950s.

Phillippa Plock, 2012

Physical description

Dimensions (mm):
723 x 622 - sight
Signature & date:
not signed or dated
RA Exhibition of Works of Art by the Old Masters / Baron ... Picadilly 143 / Sir Joshua Reynolds P. R. A.
on verso, printed and ink

à pa[ns?] coupés / [W beckford?] / Mrs Crouch
on verso, printed and ink

à triple bordure avec écoinçons [percis?] / 8760
on verso, printed and ink

on verso, oval modern label printed and ink


Owned by Frederick Augustus, Duke of York and Albany (b.1763, d.1827); acquired by Forster before 1861; sold at anonymous (= Forster) sale, Christie's, 15 June 1861, lot 101 for £99 15s; acquired by the dealer Anthony, probably from the Christie's sale 15 June 1861; bought by the 5th Marquess Henry Fitzmaurice of Lansdowne (b.1845, d.1927) from the dealer Anthony in 1861; acquired by Thomas Agnew & Sons Ltd from the Marquess of Lansdowne before April 1883; bought from Agnew's by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild (b.1839, d.1898) for £3300, stock no. 2699, 30 April 1883; inherited by his sister Alice de Rothschild (b.1847, d.1922); inherited by her great-nephew James de Rothschild (b.1878, d.1957); inherited by his wife Dorothy de Rothschild (b.1895, d.1988); given to Waddesdon The Rothschild Collection (The National Trust) in 1971.
Exhibition history:
Royal Academy Exhibition, London, 1889, no. 149, lent by Ferdinand de Rothschild as 'Mrs Crouch' by Reynolds
Waddesdon (National Trust)
Gift of Dorothy de Rothschild, 1971



Algernon Graves, William Vine Cronin; A History of the Works of Sir Joshua Reynolds; 4 vols; London; Henry Graves; 1899-1901; vol. 1, p. 214, vol. 3, p. 1096, ill.
Ellis Waterhouse, Anthony Blunt; Paintings: The James A. de Rothschild Collection at Waddesdon Manor; Fribourg; Office du Livre, The National Trust; 1967; p. 124, cat. no. 50

Indexed terms