Tate acquires its earliest painting by a woman

The Tate has acquired Joan Carlile’s Portrait of an Unknown Lady, painted in the 1650s and the earliest work in its collection by a woman.

Carlile (1609-1679) was one of the first women known to have made a living as a portrait painter, but few works attributed to her have survived.

She was the wife of a poet, dramatist and courtier, Lodowick Carlile, and she is recorded has having set up her studio in Covent Garden, the heart of the artistic community in the mid-17th century.

Although the subject of the portrait is officially unknown, she is believed to be Lady Anne Wentworth, daughter of the Earl of Strafford who at about the time of this painting married Baron Rockingham, which might  be referenced by the rocky landscape behind her.

Tate is anxious to redress the comparative neglect of women artists historically, and bought the Carlile painting from a private collector for £35,000. 

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