Portrait of a Lady
Pencil, wash and red chalk highlight on paper; 9 ½ by 8 ½ in; 24 x 21.5 cm; held in a period gilt frame; old label to reverse
Provenance: By repute The Marquises of Londonderry; Christies, 12th April 1994, lot 26; Abbott & Holder picture dealers; private collection
This finely drawn and sensitive study of a lady probably depicts a member of the Londonderry family executed around 1810. A large and influential Irish family, Lawrence famously painted Robert Stewart, 2nd Marquess of Londonderry, more commonly known as Viscount Catlereagh, the important Regency politician.
Sir Thomas Lawrence was born in Bristol and began his career early as a self-taught child prodigy who supported his family by doing pastel portraits of the nobility and of important military figures around Bath. In 1787 he went to London to study at the Royal Academy and began to paint in oils. In 1790 at just twenty his portrait of the noted beauty Elizabeth Farren caused a sensation and set him on a successful path to fame and fortune, though financial concerns were to dog him for most of his life. He became an associate of the Academy in 1791, and the following year was appointed Painter-in-Ordinary to King George III. He became a member of the Academy in 1794, received a knighthood in 1815, and was President of the Academy from 1820 until his death in London in 1830.