Joshua Reynolds, Elizabeth Mudge, née Neell

Photo courtesy of Dave Penman (All rights reserved)


Country House
Elizabeth Mudge, née Neell
Medium and support
Oil on canvas
Overall height: 73 cm, Overall width: 62.5 cm
Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792)
Catalogue Number


The sitter in the present portrait is identified here as Elizabeth Neell (d. 1782), second wife of Zachariah Mudge. According to the Mudge family biographer, Stamford Raffles Flint, they were married in 1764, following the death of Mudge’s first wife, Mary Fox.1 The portrait is not recorded in the catalogue raisonné published by Mannings and Postle in 2000. It was, however, was noted by Graves and Cronin at the end of the nineteenth century in the collection of the Reverend William Raffles Flint at Nansawsan, Ladock, Cornwall. It was described then as ‘Full face, turned to the right; in a mauve silk dress and white lace shawl; three rows of pearls round the neck, and a fur boa, which is held by both hands; large lace sleeves’.2

It is not known when the portrait was painted, but it may have been between 1764 and 1766, during which time the Mudges were frequent guests at Reynolds’s London home. According to James Northcote, Reynolds thought so highly of the Mudges ‘that he had them at his house for weeks, and even sometimes gave up his own bed-room to receive them’.3 As house guests, therefore, they would not need to have been accorded scheduled appointments in Reynolds’s sitter-book.

According to Graves and Cronin, Mrs Mudge sat for the present portrait in June 1766 and April 1769. However, the entry in Reynolds’s sitter-book on Monday 30 June 1766 clearly states ‘Mr Mudge’ and evidently relates to a social engagement, since no time is indicated and the name appears alongside ‘Miss Angelica’ (Kauffmann). ‘Mr Mudge’ was presumably Zachariah Mudge’s son John. There are no sittings recorded with Mrs Mudge in Reynolds’s sitter-book in April 1769. In any event, it is highly unlikely that Mrs Mudge would have sat to Reynolds at this time, since Zachariah Mudge died suddenly on 2 April 1769, near Plymouth, on a visit to London. According to Flint, Mrs Mudge died on 12 June 1782.1

The portrait is listed as hanging in the Dining Room in the inventory of March 1928, ‘Companion picture – Mrs Mudge, half length, chestnut hair and sleeves with three row pearl necklace, 28in by 24in gilt frame’.

by Martin Postle


Algernon Graves and William Vine Cronin, A History of the Works of Sir Joshua Reynolds P.R.A., 1–4, London : Henry Graves and Co., 1899–1901, vol. 4, p. 1373


  1. Flint, 1883, p. 23.

  2. Graves and Cronin, 1899–1901, vol. 4, p. 1373.

  3. Hazlitt, 1830, p. 104.

  4. Flint, 1883, p. 23.


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