John Russell's engaging portrait of George de Ligne Gregory was likely painted to celebrate Gregory's appointment as High Sheriff of Nottinghamshire in 1793. Gregory, the holder of Harlaxton Manor, is shown wearing the sober, sensible garments typical of a nobleman in the early 1790s: a brown double-breasted wool coat with black collar set against a brilliant white linen cravat. In his hand he casually holds a black hat lined with glowing white satin. Gregory's hat and collar are covered with white powder from his fashionably dressed hair. He is somberly yet richly dressed, alert yet seated at ease. Gregory's decorous pose embodies Russell's ideal of depicting the sitter in a manner appropriate to his age.
The portrait's brilliant whites, velvety blacks, and masterful interplay of varied flesh tones with blues are all characteristics of Russell's virtuoso application of pastel. Russell achieved the even tonality by manually smudging broad, soft areas of crayon onto the paper. He then applied fine, linear flourishes, such as the white highlighting on the cravat and in the hat lining, with a hard, pointed crayon. Russell's technical facility and acute powers of observation resulted in an engaging representation of the sitter.
Learn more about this pastel and similar works in Eighteenth-Century Pastel Portraits on Google Arts & Culture.