Elizabeth and Thomas Linley
Oil on canvas
The sitters peer out of the shadows in Gainsborough's remarkable portrait of Elizabeth and Thomas Linley: the little boy looks at us with some interest, while his older sister seems to gaze into the distance, her thoughts apparently on some lofty subject. Their father was a famous musician and impresario who encouraged his children's musical talents from a very early age. Elizabeth became the most celebrated soprano in Britain while still a teenager and Thomas -- a composer as well as a gifted musician -- went to Italy to study the violin shortly after this portrait was painted. There he met, and duetted with, the young W. A. Mozart. Famous for her beauty as well as her voice, Elizabeth's public career ended when she married the politician and playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan. Gainsborough, himself an accomplished musician, knew the Linleys well; there are several portraits by him of other members of the family, and a full-length portrait of Elizabeth in the National Gallery of Art in Washington.