Mademoiselle Rachel was the stage name of Eliza Félix (1821–1858), the most celebrated tragic actress in Europe. The English writer Charlotte Brontë described her on stage as ‘a wonderful sight... terrible as if the earth had cracked deep at your feet and revealed a glimpse of hell.’.
The broad, rapid brushwork and large areas of exposed millboard indicate that the portrait was made quickly, probably at one sitting.
The painting is on loan from York Art Gallery which will reopen in 2015 with new display spaces and the Centre for British Studio Ceramics. To find out more visit the York Art Gallery website [External link].