Portrait of an Unknown Woman and Child by Andrea Soldi (1698-1771) [attrib.]
England, about 1740, Museum no. B.251-1997
Oil on canvas

This arresting painting of a mother and child uses a very simple background in red and grey to focus the attention on the colours and textures in the foreground. The sitters in their satin clothes appear luminous in the contrasting bright blue and white. The formal, upright pose of the woman is softened by the natural gesture of the child, who she attempts to placate with an apple in one hand while encircling the waist with the other.

In 2011 this painting was convincingly attributed to Andrea Soldi (ca. 1703-71), a Florentine painter who arrived in London in 1736. His ‘freely and well drawn’ portraits were prized among the aristocracy for their attractive light colour, ‘well immitated Silks Sattins Velvets’, and flattering and original presentation. After a few successful years, Soldi was imprisoned for debt, and his popularity waned in the face of competition from a younger generation of British artists, including Sir Joshua Reynolds, who allegedly paid for Soldi’s funeral.

You can find this painting in the Childhood Galleries at the Museum of Childhood.