The first time I ever came across “Pinkie” was when I was about 10 or 11. At the time, we were ‘right into’ swap cards. I had swapped one card and received this in place. Knowing that it was an ‘historic painting’ at the time, I was intrigued to know more. With the wind circulating around her and her ethereal stance beckoned my imagination. To top it off, the contrasting pink hues from the ribbons billowing from her dress and headdress, contrasted with the background stormy-looking back-lit sky which added to its wonder. In latter years I realised that this was actually a replica of one of the 18th Century ‘great masters’.
Today: “Pinkie” – the painting is 220 years old. Painted in 1794 by the artist Thomas Lawrence, it is now part of the Huntington Collection at San Marino, California where it hangs opposite Thomas Gainsborough’s, “The Blue Boy”. But who was Pinkie and why is she referred to as that?
It appears that “Pinkie” was a family nickname for Sarah Goodin Barrett Moulton, who was born on 22 March 1783, in Little River, St. James’s, Jamaica. She was the only daughter and eldest child of Charles Moulton, a merchant from Madeira, having been a descendant of Hersey Barrett, who traveled to Jamaica in 1655 with Sir William Penn. The Barrett’s were wealthy landowners, slave owners, and exporters of sugar-cane and rum. By the age of nine or ten, Sarah and two of her younger siblings had left Jamaica and were studying in Greenwich, England. Sarah was sent to Mrs Fenwick’s school at Flint House, Greenwich, along with other children from Jamaican colonial families. Although not really known how or why; somewhere around 1793, Sarah began sitting for the artist Tom Lawrence;, painter-in-ordinary to George III, at his studio in Old Bond Street, London. At the time she was around the age of 11. The portrait was completed in 1794.
- Sadly, only one year later, on 23 April 1795, Sarah died at Greenwich, at the tender age of 12.
- Poignantly, her portrait was unveiled at the exhibition at the Royal Academy in 1795, which opened the day after her burial.
Clearly no longer “Pinkie”, she was also far from being “Perky”. – How eerie is that?