Lot 5
  • 5

Sir Thomas Lawrence P.R.A.

60,000 - 80,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Sir Thomas Lawrence P.R.A.
  • Portrait of Lady Elizabeth Lowther (died 1869)
  • oil and black chalk on canvas
  • 28 by 23 1/4 in.; 71 by 59 cm.


Delivered to the sitter's father, William Lowther, 1st Earl of Lonsdale (1757-1844), in 1830 by Lawrence's executor;
Thence by descent to James Lowther, 7th Earl of Lonsdale (1922-2006);
By whom sold ("The Property of the Rt. Hon. the Earl of Lonsdale"), London, Sotheby's, 17 July 1974, lot 45;
There acquired by a private collector;
By whom anonymously sold ("The Property of a Lady"), London, Sotheby's, 6 December 2012, lot 131;
There acquired.


K. Garlick, Sir Thomas Lawrence; A complete catalogue of the oil paintings, Oxford 1989, pp. 230-231, under no. 518, reproduced.


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 work is in excellent condition. The canvas is lined with a non-wax adhesive. The paint layer is clean and shows no weakness or damage at all. Under ultraviolet light, there are a couple of spots of retouching in the bottom of the blue dress worn by the Madonna, but there are otherwise no retouches. The work should be hung in its current state.
"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

Lady Elizabeth Lowther was the eldest daughter of William, 1st Earl of Lonsdale and his wife Lady Augusta Fane, daughter of John, 9th Earl of Westmorland. Lady Elizabeth died unmarried in 1869. This oil sketch relates to a finished portrait painted by Lawrence in 1811 (oil on canvas, 91.4 by 71/1 cm.) which has descended in the sitter’s family. Lawrence’s oil sketches provide a fascinating insight into his working methods as he began a new portrait commission. A master draughtsman, he maintained his belief “that the picture, whatever it is, be first accurately drawn on the canvas.”1  In this sketch, we see the head of Lady Elizabeth, with her face and part of her hair fully painted in oil while the back of her head, still unfinished, is rendered in black chalk drawn directly onto the canvas   Another of Lawrence’s sitters, Lady Elizabeth Leveson-Gower, whose portrait he painted in 1817-18 and who saw his preliminary drawing of her, recalled that “what struck me most during my two hours’ sittings in Russell Square was the perfection of the drawing of his portraits, before any colour was put on—the drawing itself was so perfectly beautiful that it seemed almost a sin to add any colour.”When Lawrence died in 1830, some 200 unfinished portraits were found in his Russell Square house, a few dating as far back as the 1790s.  Most of them, such as this portrait, were given to the sitters or their families.3

A copy of this sketch, which had descended in the Cavendish-Bentinck family, (oil and pencil on board, 40.1 by 34.7 cm.) was sold at Sotheby's, London, 26 October 2016, lot 1018.  The sitter's sister, Lady Mary Lowther (died 1862) was married to Maj.-Gen. Lord Frederick Cavendish-Bentinck (1781-1828).

1.  In a letter of circa 1790 to Lord Malden; see M. Levey, Sir Thomas Lawrence, New Haven & London 2005, pp. 2, 320, note 6.
2.  Lord R.S. Gower, Sir Thomas Lawrence, London 1900, pp. 37-38.
3.  See K. Garlick, Sir Thomas Lawrence, London 1955, p. 17.