Lady Agnew of Lochnaw by John Singer Sargent

Category: Painting, Singers
Last Updated: 20 Jun 2022
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John Sargent was one of the most prominent portrait painters during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  Sargent was born in Italy to American parents that moved constantly throughout his childhood.  Perhaps painting portraits allowed him to get close to individuals since he did not during his childhood.   There is no denying that Sargent was observant in the physical details as well as the details of the subject’s personality because the subjects look as if they are ready to step out of the painting and join the world of the living.  This is especially true of Lady Agnew of Lochnaw painted in eighteen ninety-three.

The subject of the painting Lady Agnew of Lochnaw is Gertrude Vernon, the wife of Andrew Noel Agnew.  He commissioned the painting soon after he inherited the barony in France.  In the painting, Lady Agnew seems to be staring out into the eyes of the viewer and even though she is in a relaxed pose, she is dressed formally.  From her intense gaze, one can tell that Lady Agnew is a strong person who is not afraid to look someone straight in the eye.

Blue green silk fabric was used for the background in the painting.  Even though Sargent uses more green near the shadows, blue is the predominant color.  At first glance one does not notice the tiny peach and white flowers that are scattered throughout the fabric.  However, they lend an elegant quality to the fabric because they give an oriental look to the silk which also comes from the orient.

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It is also expensive so it makes a statement of wealth.  Sargent achieves the texture of silk in the background with his use of lights and darks which shows quality of his talent.  The blue green color also compliments the soft white chiffon dress with the sheer sleeves.  The lilac colored satin sash blends with the faint hint of pink used in the peach flowers.  The lightness of the color of Lady Agnew’s dress gives an ironic contrast of freedom and innocence.

The Chair in which Lady Agnew is sitting is reminiscent of the furnishings of Marie Antoinette which is symbolic of her and her husband’s new titles.  The wood of the chair is painted in a cream and gold colored French provincial style.  The elegance of the furniture is displayed in the light cream background with light blue and deep mauve colored flowers giving the fabric the style of country French.  The cream of the chair contrast the white of the dress, but the blue and pink still bring the colors together by complimenting the lilac sash.

Lady Agnew wears very little jewelry, but the pieces she has chosen are sophisticated.  Around her neck she wears a deep rose colored undefined cameo necklace suspended from a gold chain.  The cameo is encircled with jewels that appear to be diamonds.  Again the wealth of the Agnews is displayed with the quality of the jewelry.

She also wears a wide yet delicate gold bracelet on the wrist that is slightly draped over the arm of the chair.  The gold in the bracelet blends so well with the colors of the chair that it is barely noticeable.  The understatement of the jewelry symbolizes the taste of the titled Agnews.

When one gazes on a John Sargent portrait, such as Lady Agnew of Lochnaw, it is easy to see how he was such a renowned artist in this area.  The realistic portraits and his use of color brought to life those who sat before him.  Sargent could also present the subject’s social status of his subject without being ostentatious.


  1. Sargent, J. (1893).  Lady Agnew of Lochnaw.
  2. Wallace, N. (2005) Lady Agnew of Lochnaw.  JSS Virtual Gallery. Retrieved April 29, 2008 from

Cite this Page

Lady Agnew of Lochnaw by John Singer Sargent. (2017, Mar 04). Retrieved from

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