Mary, Wife of Sir Robert Cunliffe
The sitter, Mary Wright of Nottingham, married Robert Cunliffe of Saighton Tower near Chester in 1752. She was in her mid-forties when this portrait was painted. Cotes painted her husband at the same time and the double commission probably commemorated his succession to the Baronetage in 1767. Cotes had been an outstanding portraitist in pastels in the 1740s and ‘50s, but he gradually turned to working in oils. He died at the age of 44 when he was emerging as one of Sir Joshua Reynolds’s chief rivals, particularly in female portraiture, to which he brought a pastellist’s sensitivity and freshness of colour.