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Mrs Thomas Linley

In her youth "reckoned beautiful" and possessed of a charming singing voice, Mary Johnson (1729-1820) married Thomas Linley the elder in 1752. The marriage produced twelve children, but Mrs Linley saw all but two die before her and outlived her husband by 25 years. She was already in her late 80s when Lonsdale painted this portrait of her: according to costume historian Dr Aileen Ribeiro, her dress suggests a date of 1815-20. The portrait obviously flatters the sitter and the brown curls peeping under the bonnet are not her own, but Mrs Linley undoubtedly had an excellent constitution. Contemporaries recorded her strong character, her devotion to her family and her vulgar and penny-pinching ways, which often embarrassed her more socially distinguished offspring. This painting was exhibited at the RA in 1820, shortly after the sitter's death at the age of 91.

Currently on display

James Lonsdale
Gallery 3
76.5 x 63.5 cm
Oil on canvas
William Linley Bequest, 1835
Accession number
Adopted by Barbara Kley, 2006