Portrait of a Woman (after John Botto), date unknown
Magdalen Harvey McDowell (American, 1829-1918)
Oil on canvas
Gift of Georgia Rodes 2018.23.3
How much will it cost? $2,800.00
This lovely portrait was completed by Magdalene Harvey McDowell, a niece of Kentucky senator Henry Clay, who lived her entire life at the Clay estate at Ashland, in Lexington. An accomplished artist, McDowell exhibited her work frequently. We’ve found documentation indicating that this painting was exhibited in an exhibition in Atlanta, Georgia.
The painting requires removal of a heavy overpaint layer across the woman’s chest that obscures McDowell’s original loose, feathery brushwork. Decades ago, possibly in order to “brighten up the painting”, someone went in and added a lot of color to the work. Under ultraviolet lighting, this thick paint layer is extremely noticeable – and disfiguring. An old varnish layer has discolored, giving the portrait a flat appearance. With restoration, the painting would be restored to its original appearance, as the artist intended.