Dress Up!

Drawing activity suitable for all ages.

Portrait of a Lady Holding an Orange Blossom

Portrait of a Lady Holding an Orange Blossom

Portrait of a Lady Holding an Orange Blossom, mid-18th century. Oil on canvas. Overall: 80 x 56.2 cm. Purchase, with funds from the European Curatorial Committee, 2020. © Art Gallery of Ontario. 2019/2437.

This is a line drawing of a portrait from the mid-18th century. Painted in oil on canvas in the 1770s, the portrait shows us a young woman of colour standing outdoors, presenting an orange blossom in her right hand. She is dressed in rich blue silk with sumptuous lace details and she wears fine jewellery. She holds our gaze with confidence and grace.

We do not know the name of the sitter. How would you try to find out more about the painting?

Visit us at AGO.ca/agoinsider/investigating-our-mystery-painting to hear more from the curators leading this exciting research project.


A blue Dress and an Orange Blossom reveals many clues

The sitter’s blue dress can help us understand when the painting was made and even offer insight into the life of the painting’s sitter. Our research into the bodice of the dress indicates the woman in the portrait may be younger than we first thought. How old do you think she is? Consider what the dress and jewellery might reveal about the subject’s status. What might her life have been like?

Re-draw this person as if they were alive today. What might they be wearing, and what setting would you create? Will they be indoors or outside? What are they holding?

Look around for clothes, fabrics and accessories that might enable you to reproduce this pose yourself.

What does your final composition look like? What would you try if you did it again?

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