A Very Strong Likeness of Her: Portraiture and Identity in the British Colonial World


Francis Cotes (English, 1726–1770), Miss Frances Lee (detail), 1769.

Oil on canvas. 36 × 28¼ in. (91.44 × 71.76 cm). Gift of Mr. and Mrs. William D. Vogel, M1964.5. Photo by Larry Sanders


  • June 23–October 22, 2023

  • European Art Galleries, Level 2, Gallery S202

  • Free for Members

  • Included with admission

  • Audio guide

Focusing on a singular work from the Milwaukee Art Museum’s collection, A Very Strong Likeness of Her explores the challenging and sometimes conflicting histories that an artwork can represent. On its surface, the English artist Francis Cotes’s (1726–1770) portrait of Miss Frances Lee is a charming image of a young girl and her napkin-turned-rabbit companion. The exhibition’s close study of the painting, however, reveals a complex story of identity, family dynamics, and British colonialism in Jamaica. A Very Strong Likeness of Her employs a range of materials to bring to life the underlying narratives in this deceptively simple painting.

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