THOMAS GAINSBOROUGH (BRITISH 1727-1788)COUNTESS IN A GOLD DRESS Oil on canvas 91.4 x 71.1cm (35 x 27 in.)Provenance:Private Collection, Henry Brand, 1st Viscount Hampden (1814-1892), Glynde Park, Sussex, in 1884Private Collection, Louis Huth (1822-1905), London by 1885Huth's sale, Christie's, 20 May 1905, lot 97 Agnews, London (purchased from the above sale for £3045)Private Collection, W.W. Kimball, Chicago (purchased 17 April 1906)Bequeathed by W.W. Kimball to the Art Institute of Chicago in 1922 (1922.4458), deaccessioned in 1987Sale, Christie's, London, 20 November 1987, lot 94A (sold as Portrait of a Lady, Elizabeth Chudleigh, Countess of Bristol)Purchased from the above by the present owner Exhibited:Brighton, 1884, no. 258 (as Viscountess Hampden)London, Grosvenor Gallery, 1885, no.85 (as Lady, name unknown)Chicago, 1933, no. 191 (as Countess of Bristol)Literature:Walter Armstrong, Gainsborough & His Place in English Art ,(London: William Heinemann,1898), p. 198Walter Armstrong, Gainsborough and his Place in English Art, (London & New York, 1904), p. 263Mortimer Menpes, James Greig, Gainsborough, (London: A. & C. Black, 1909), p. 175 (as Lady in White)E. K. Waterhouse, Preliminary Check List of Portraits by Thomas Gainsborough, Walpole Society, 1948-50, XXXIII, 1953, p.11E.K. Waterhouse, Gainsborough, (London: 1958), p. 63, no. 192Hugh Belsey, Thomas Gainsborough: The Portraits, Fancy Pictures, and Copies after Old Masters, (London: New Haven and London, 2019)vol. II, pp. 932-933, cat. no. 1024, reproduced p. 932 The identification of the sitter is unknown, however the inclusion of the coronet of a viscountess to the left of the sitter has encouraged great debate as to who the sitter may be. According to Hugh Belsey's 2019 publication the portrait dates to the late 1770s and it has been suggested that the sitter must have been in their fifties. When the portrait was exhibited in Brighton in 1884 the sitter was identified as Viscountess Hampden. However, the Viscountess was in her thirties at the time the portrait was painted so this suggestion has to be discredited. The sitter has also been identified as Elizabeth Pierrepont, the Countess of Bristol, Duchess of Kingston (née Chudleigh). However, a known portrait of Elizabeth by Francis Cotes dating to 1763, whilst it draws some similarities it does not depict the same sitter. Another sitter that has been proposed is Theodosia Bligh, Viscountess Crosbie (c.1723-1777). Nonetheless, there are no recorded portraits of Viscountess Crosbie (Lady Glandore) to make comparison to. It is believed that after the portrait was sold in the Louis Huth sale at Christie's the area around the sitter's mouth was repainted to improve her appearance. However, these overpaints were removed in 1962 when the portrait was cleaned.