Allegorical Painting of Two Ladies, English School

Allegorical Painting of Two Ladies

Allegorical Painting of Two Ladies, English School is a 17th century painting by an unknown artist. For its time period, the painting is considered unusual and "extremely rare" in its depiction of a black woman and a white woman sitting side-by-side as equals.


The painting depicts two women, one black and one white, sitting next to each other covered in beauty patches. The painting is unusual for the time in its depiction of the sitters as equals. The women are presented as companions with similar dress, makeup, hair, and jewelry. The work was created circa 1650 and subverts traditional portraiture ideals of the time period. The painting likely doesn't represent real sitters, but may have contextual relevance within contemporaneous British print culture.

Above the women is the inscription, "I black with white bespott you white with blacke this evil proceeds from thy proud hart then take her, Devill". The writing is likely intended to be moralizing, condemning the use of cosmetics and especially beauty patches, which were popular adornments at the time. In 1650, an act to forbid beauty patches was introduced to Parliament, although it was not passed.


The painting originates from the estate of Lloyd Tyrell-Kenyon (1947–2019), 6th Baron Kenyon. Tyrell-Kenyon was quoted as saying in 1949 that “We have a curious picture which has hung here for many years, but of which I know of no real explanation.” It was held at his manor house in Shropshire, England since at least the nineteenth century.

Export bar and acquisition

On 23 June 2021, the painting was sold at a small auction house in Shropshire with an estimate of £2000-4000. There was a fierce bidding war due to the inherent sociological interest of the allegorical depiction of a dark-skinned woman, and the final sale price was £220,000 with a 20% buyer's premium. It was the highest sum ever paid for an item at the Shropshire auction house.

After its sale, the purchaser applied for an export licence. The British government subsequently barred the painting from export in the hopes that a UK institution could purchase the painting within a time limit, a routine action intended to prevent overseas buyers from acquiring culturally important artworks.

The painting's export bar was set to be deferred on March 9, 2022. On 23 June 2023, The Guardian reported that the painting had been "saved" for Britain by Compton Verney Art Gallery for £300,000, with the help of grants from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Victoria and Albert Museum valued at £154,600 and £50,000 respectively.

This page was last updated at 2024-01-10 02:15 UTC. Update now. View original page.

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