Captain Philip Thicknesse, a laudanum addict who bequeathed his severed right hand to his son ‘to remind him of his duty to God’, is best remembered today as an early patron and biographer of Thomas Gainsborough.

Thicknesse remained close to Gainsborough throughout the artist’s life, and Gainsborough became a close friend of his family. In his biography of Gainsborough, Thicknesse wrote that his daughter ‘prevailed upon [Gainsborough] to give her a little feint tinted drawing of his to copy, from which she made so exact a resemblance, that at a slight view, it was not readily distinguished from the original’. According to the anecdote, Miss Thicknesse’s copy was so perfect that Gainsborough accidentally destroyed the drawing, mistaking it for his own work. Figures Resting in a Woodland Landscape bears an inscription to ‘Miss Thicknesse’, establishing it as one of the pieces the artist created for his patron’s daughter. The picture confirms that Gainsborough gave encouragement, and perhaps tuition, to Thicknesse’s daughters – the simplified forms and bold composition of the piece were probably designed for Miss Thicknesse to copy. It is also one of the few drawings that Gainsborough dated, making it an important piece in establishing a chronology of his drawn works.


Ann Thicknesse; with Allen's Map and Print Warehouse, Dublin; Lady Emily Fitzwalter; by descent.

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