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Johann Zoffany, Mrs Oswald

Key facts
Full title Mrs Oswald
Artist Johann Zoffany
Artist dates 1733? - 1810
Date made about 1763-4
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 226.5 × 158.8 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1938
Inventory number NG4931
Location Room 34
Collection Main Collection
Mrs Oswald
Johann Zoffany

Zoffany has portrayed Mary Oswald at the age of about 50. Probably born in Kingston, Jamaica, she was the only child of Alexander Ramsay, a Glasgow-born merchant who settled in Jamaica, acquiring plantations there and in the South American colonies. In 1750, she married Richard Oswald, a Scottish entrepreneur, merchant, shipowner and slave trader who provided army supplies.

This portrait is one of Zoffany’s largest paintings and was probably commissioned to hang in the Oswald’s stately home of Auchincruive, three miles from Ayr in Scotland. Mrs Oswald’s costume and hairstyle suggest a date in the early 1760s. It was unusual for Zoffany to portray a female sitter on her own. He appears to have detected little zest for life in Mrs Oswald, and her pose in the wild natural setting seems only to emphasise her solitude.

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