The Amulet by Robert John Swan, 1923

The sitter was the novelist Sheila Kaye-Smith, of whom Swan made a similar drawing (unmistakably the same sitter and inscribed with her name) in 1919. In 1923, the year of this painting, Kaye-Smith published her most successful novel The End of the House of Alard, written in the earthy rural style that Stella Gibbons parodied in Cold Comfort Farm. In an article in The Artist magazine of March 1943, ‘My Outlook on Portrait Painting’, Swan wrote of the importance of not allowing the hands to detract from the face in portraits, and cited Titian as the artist who managed this effectively. The pose in our picture appears to be based on Titian’s A Man with a Quilted Sleeve

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