Lot 59
  • 59

Thomas Gainsborough R.A.

100,000 - 150,000 USD
Log in to view results
bidding is closed


  • Thomas Gainsborough R.A.
  • Portrait of Admiral Lord Graves, 1st Baron Graves of Gravesend
  • Inscribed on a letter on the table: Rear Admiral Graves.../Plymo.../Admiralty...
  • Oil on canvas


Sir Joseph B. Robinson, 1st Bart. (1840-1929), London
Sale: Christie’s, London, July 6, 1923, lot 6 (sold by the above and bought back)
Ida Louisa Robinson, Princess Labia (died 1961) (daughter of the above)
Count Natale A.D. Labia (son of the above)
Sale: Sotheby's, London, November 16, 1988, lot 60 (sold by the above)
Acquired at the above sale by A. Alfred Taubman


London, Schomberg House, 1786
London, Royal Academy, The Robinson Collection, 1958, no. 28
Zurich, Kunsthaus, Sammlung Sir Joseph Robinson 1840-1929, Werke europäischer Malerei vom 15. bis 19. Jahrhundert, 1962, no. 56


William T. Whitley, Thomas Gainsborough, New York, 1915, pp. 244-245 and 257
R.R.Tatlock, “The Robinson Pictures at Christie’s,” The Burlington Magazine, vol. XLIII, July-December 1923, p. 34
Ellis K. Waterhouse, “A Preliminary check list of Portraits by Thomas Gainsborough,” Walpole Society, 1948-1950, vol. XXXIII, 1953, p. 51
Ellis K. Waterhouse, Gainsborough, London, 1958, p. 71, no. 324


The following condition report has been provided by Karen Thomas of Thomas Art Conservation LLC., 336 West 37th Street, Suite 830, New York, NY 10018, 212-564-4024, info@thomasartconservation.com, an independent restorer who is not an employee of Sotheby's. This fine portrait is in excellent condition overall. As is common with paintings by the artist, wide aperture drying cracks have developed in some passages, including in the background where the red drapery meets the wall and at the interface between the figure and the background. Restoration is limited to visually suppressing some of the drying cracks and to addressing two small scratches in the Admiral's forehead. The canvas has been strip-lined along the top and bottom edges, but remains attached to its original keyable stretcher, with additional reinforcement of the tacking margin in the upper corners. The support is stable and planar. The picture displays an even glossy varnish. A backing board protects the painting from the reverse.
"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

Thomas Graves, the second son of Rear-Admiral Thomas Graves of Thanckes, Cornwall, was born into a seafaring family and joined the Navy at an early age.  He served as Commodore-Governor of Newfoundland from 1761 to 1764 and in 1781, during the American War of Independence, was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the North American Squadron.  His defeat by the Comte de Grasse in the Battle of the Chesapeake on 5 September 1781 lead to the surrender of Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown and thus presented the Americans with a decisive victory in the war.  Despite this, Graves was promoted to Vice Admiral in 1787 and Commander-in-Chief at Plymouth in 1788.  During the French Revolutionary Wars he was second in command of the Channel Fleet under Admiral Richard Howe.  He became Admiral of the Blue and aboard his flagship, the Royal Sovereign, played an important part in the British victory over the French at the Battle of the Glorious First of June in 1794.  He was badly wounded in the right arm and this action marked the end of his active career.  In reward for his bravery he was created Lord Graves, Baron of Gravesend, Co. Londonderry.  Graves was married in 1779 to Elizabeth, daughter and co-heir of William Peere-Williams of Chudleigh in Devon.  Graves died in 1802 and is buried at Thanckes, Cornwall.

Gainsborough’s portrait of Graves was begun in 1785 and finished in 1786 when it was exhibited at Schomberg House in Pall Mall where the artist had been living and working upon leaving Bath in 1774.  Following disagreements with the Royal Academy over the hanging of his pictures, Gainsborough began to have annual exhibitions of his work in his studio at Schomberg House.  Like The Blue Page, also by Gainsborough (see lot 64), this portrait was in the famous collection of Sir Joseph Robinson and included in the sale of his property in 1923 in London.  At the last minute he had regrets about his decision to sell and proceeded to buy back most of the items in the auction, including this portrait.  It was inherited by his daughter Ida, Princess Labia, and passed to her son before it was sold again at auction in 1988.

This painting will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the works of Thomas Gainsborough by Hugh Belsey.