Lot 68
  • 68

Sir Thomas Lawrence, P.R.A.

500,000 - 700,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Thomas Lawrence
  • Portrait of Anne, Viscountess Pollington, later Countess of Mexborough, with her son, John Charles, later 4th Earl of Mexborough, full-lenth
  • oil on canvas


By descent to the Dowager Countess of Mexborough;
Their sale, London, Christie's, 14 December 1917, lot 86 (unsold);
With Thomas Agnew and Sons, London;
From whom purchased by Weetman Pearson, 1st Viscount Cowdray, in 1918 for £4,000;
Thence by descent and sold ("The Cowdray Sale: Works of Art from Cowdray Park and Dunecht House"), Cowdray Park, West Sussex, Christie's, 15 September 2011, lot 100.


London, Royal Academy, 1821, no. 208;
London, British Institution, 1865, no. 174.


Lord R.S. Gower, Sir Thomas Lawrence, London 1899, p. 150;
A. Hare, The Story of My Life, London 1900, p. 360;
Sir W. Armstrong, Lawrence, London 1913, p. 159;
K. Garlick, Sir Thomas Lawrence, London 1954, p. 163;
K. Garlick, "A Catalogue of the Paintings, Drawings and Pastels of Sir Thomas Lawrence," Walpole Society, XXXIX, 1964, p. 163;
C. Anson, Catalogue of the Paintings and Drawings in the Collection of The Viscount Cowdray, London 1970, p. 5, no. 19 (in The Buck Hall);
K. Garlick, Sir Thomas Lawrence, Oxford 1989, p. 254, no. 656;
M. Levey, Sir Thomas Lawrence, New Haven and London 2005, pp. 160 and 242.


The following condition report has been provided by Simon Parkes of Simon Parkes Art Conservation, Inc. 502 East 74th St. New York, NY 212-734-3920, simonparkes@msn.com, an independent restorer who is not an employee of Sotheby's. This painting is restored, perhaps not recently but effectively nonetheless. The work can be hung as is. The canvas has a good glue lining which is supporting the canvas well. It can be seen that the paint layer throughout the picture is healthy. Although there are intermittent retouches visible under ultraviolet light, they seem to be well applied; they are not any indication of broad abrasion or weakening to the paint layer. For instance, there are retouches addressing some slight staining and thinness in the shadowed part of the left forearm of the mother, but they are certainly not numerous. Small retouches have been added in other isolated areas such as the white cloth around the child. Lawrence is a technically complex artist, and the glazes used by the painter are in lovely condition here.
"This lot is offered for sale subject to Sotheby's Conditions of Business, which are available on request and printed in Sotheby's sale catalogues. The independent reports contained in this document are provided for prospective bidders' information only and without warranty by Sotheby's or the Seller."

Catalogue Note

This grand portrait depicts Viscountess Pollington with her eldest son John, later 4thEarl of Mexborough.  She was the eldest daughter of the politician Philip Yorke, 3rd Earl of Hardwicke (1757-1834), who was Lord Lieutenant of Ireland (1801) and served as the first Viceroy in post-union Ireland, and the great-granddaughter of the politician Philip, 1st Earl of Hardwicke (1690-1764), who served as Lord Chancellor from 1737 to 1756. She married John Savile, Viscount Pollington, later 3rd Earl of Mexborough, in 1807.  Also involved in politics, he represented Pontefract in parliament (1807-26 and 1831-2).

Despite the large scale of this portrait, the feeling is intimate and almost playful, with the young boy pulling at his mother’s hair as she tenderly and patiently gazes down at him.  Romney has eschewed a conventional interior, placing the figures in a theatrical space with flowing draperies and a large window open to a cloud-filled sky.  During the first decade of the 19th century, Lawrence focused much of his attention on the full-length group portrait, especially that of mothers and their offspring.  Not surprisingly, the most popular commission was that of a mother with her son or sons, tacitly celebrating the boy who was the male heir. This portrait was probably begun around 1811.  Lawrence was notorious for his procrastination in completing his commissioned works.  According to Augustus Hare (see Literature), “That was the case with his portrait of Lady Mexborough and her child. Lord Mexborough asked to have it home again and again, but it was no use. At last he said he must have the picture. ‘Well,’ said Sir Thomas, ‘I’ve been a long time, I allow; but I’ve got well forward with Lady Mexborough: it’s the baby wants finishing. Now if Lady Mexborough would kindly bring the baby and give me another sitting, I really will finish.’—‘Well, Sir Thomas,’ said Lord Mexborough, ‘my wife will be happy to give you another sitting whenever you like, but the baby’s in the Guards!’”  As Garlick points out (see Literature), though this was obviously an exaggeration, the boy was eleven when the portrait was finally finished and exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1821.


1.  See M. Levey, Sir Thomas Lawrence, New Haven and London 2005, p. 159.