The eldest daughter of Jermyn Wyche(1664-1718) and Mary Hungerford (d.1736) who married in August 1699, Catherine Wyche was born sometime shortly after her brother in 1703. She went on to marry one of the Wright family and is almost certainly the Mrs.Wright of Kilverstone engraved by John Faber in mezzotint after a lost portrait by John Vanderbank (National Portrait Gallery Archive D4929). Her brother Cyrill (1703-1780) went on to become High Sheriff of Norfolk. Residing at Hockwold Hall, Norfolk, her marriage to the Wrights of Kilverstone Hall would have taken her to a hamlet only about ten miles further east in the county.
Charles Jervas would have been very familiar with Norfolk as his most prominent patrons after the King lived in and around the county; Sir Robert Walpole, the first prime minister residing at Houghton Hall. Certainly Jervas was able to exploit to the full this association and through Walpole’s influence he became principal painter to George I and curried favour with many other prominent families. Much of his fame was also owed to his friendship with a number of prominent literary figures who spread praise for his work through their writing; Pope and Swift to name but two. Also a writer of some talent, he translated Cervantes’s Don Quixote, which was published after his death in 1742.
This portrait of young Catherine Wyche depicts her as Venus the goddess of love and beauty enthroned on her triumphal chariot. The scallop shell chariot, alluding to the Roman goddess’s birth from the sea, is drawn by two doves out of the clouds. The theme occurs in 15th & 16th century Italian painting, a period when civic processions, which often celebrated the triumph of pagan divinities, were popular in Italian cities. References to Roman antiquity are abound in late 17th century and early 18th century art and Jervas cleverly flatters his young female subject by making such a distinct visual statement. Furthermore he depicts in the distance a rotund temple, such as the type integrated in to garden designs of the period, which celebrated the life of Venus, and contributed towards the Arcadian idyll so much desired by eager, wealthy patrons.