The Age of Innocence (painting)
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|Year||1788, possibly 1785|
|Medium||Oil on canvas|
The Age of Innocence is an oil on canvas picture by Sir Joshua Reynolds, painted in either 1785 or 1788 and measuring 765 x 638 mm. The sitter is unknown, but was possibly Reynolds's great-niece Theophila Gwatkin (who was three in 1785), or Lady Anne Spencer (1773–1865), the youngest daughter of the 4th Duke of Marlborough. The picture was presented to the National Gallery in 1847 by Robert Vernon, and has hung in the Tate since 1951.
The picture is a character study, or, in 18th-century terms, a fancy picture, and was painted over another Reynolds work, A Strawberry Girl, perhaps because Strawberry had suffered some paint losses. Only the hands remain in their original state. Innocence itself has deteriorated since 1859.
The Age of Innocence became a favourite of the public, and according to Martin Postle "the commercial face of childhood", being reproduced countless times in prints and ephemera of different kinds. No fewer than 323 full-scale replicas in oil were made by students and professional copyists between 1856 and 1893. The picture's catchy name, later used knowingly as the title of a 1920 novel of the same name, was given in 1794, after Reynold's death, by Joseph Grozer for his stipple engraving of the work. The original title was probably A Little Girl, the title of a work exhibited by Reynolds at the Royal Academy in 1785.
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