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View full screen - View 1 of Lot 44. Portrait of Sophia Elizabeth Lawrence.

Property from a Private American Collection

George Romney

Portrait of Sophia Elizabeth Lawrence

Auction Closed

May 22, 04:23 PM GMT


100,000 - 150,000 USD

Lot Details


Property from a Private American Collection

George Romney

Dalton-in-Furness, Lancashire 1734 - 1802 Kendal, Cumbria

Portrait of Sophia Elizabeth Lawrence

oil on canvas

canvas: 49 ¾ by 39 ¾ in.; 126.4 by 101.0 cm.

framed: 60 ⅜ by 50 ¾ in.; 153.4 by 128.9 cm.

Commissioned by the sitter’s father, William Lawrence, Esq., M.P.;

Thence by descent to the sitter, Sophia Elizabeth Lawrence (1761-1845), Studley Royal, Yorkshire;

By whom bequeathed to H.E. Waller, Farmington Lodge, Northleach, and Oxford;

Thence by descent until sold ("The Waller Heirlooms"), London, Christie’s, 7 July 1900, lot 28;

Where acquired by Colnaghi;

With Arthur Tooth;

From whom acquired by Agnew's, London, 16 January 1902;

Where acquired by William Lockett Agnew (1858–1918), 21 February 1902;

Thence by inheritance to his wife, Mrs. Lockett Agnew (neé Augusta Isobel Sheil, 1859-1922), London;

By whose estate offered, London, Christie’s, 15 June 1923, lot 53;

Where acquired by the heirs of Mrs. Lockett Agnew;

With Agnew's, London, by May 1928;

From whom acquired by Mrs. E. Hartford;

With Newhouse;

Mr. and Mrs. Kay Kimbell, October 1956;

Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth;

By whom deaccessioned and sold, New York, Sotheby’s, 1 April 1983, lot 43;

Where acquired by the parents of the present owners.  

W. Wallis and A. B. Chamberlain, Illustrated Catalogue of a Loan Collection of Portraits, exhibition catalogue, Birmingham 1903, p. 17, cat. no. 10, reproduced;

"Exhibition of English Portraits of the Eighteenth Century in the Birmingham Art Gallery," in Burlington Magazine 3, no. 8 (November 1903), p. 129, reproduced;

T.H. Ward and W. Roberts, Romney: A Biographical and Critical Essay with a Catalogue Raisonné of his Works, New York 1904, pp. 92, reproduced;

Exhibition of Works by the Old Masters and Deceased Masters of the British School, exhibition catalogue, London 1910, p. 32, cat. no. 111;

A. B. Chamberlain, George Romney, New York 1910, pp. 319-320;

A. Kidson, George Romney: A Complete Catalogue of His Paintings, vol. II, New Haven 2015, p. 355, cat. no. 780, reproduced.

Birmingham, Museum and Art Gallery, Loan Collection of Portraits, 1903, no. 10 (lent by Lockett Agnew, Esq.);

London, Royal Academy, Winter Exhibition, 3 January - 12 March 1910, no. 111 (lent by Lockett Agnew, Esq.).

Commissioned by the sitter’s father in 1786, this elegant portrait depicts the youthful Miss Sophia Elizabeth Lawrence (1761-1845). It was conceived as the pendant to a portrait of her brother, William, who posed for Romney one year prior and tragically died within weeks of his portraits’s delivery in November 1785.1 Thus, Miss Lawrence is rendered here in mourning with a profound sense of dignity and repose. As remarked by Arthur B. Chamberlain, “...the treatment of the black dress, which, no doubt, she was wearing in memory of her brother, is one of his happiest effects both in design and in the skillful management of a single tint. Both of these portraits bear signs in every touch that the painting of them was a labour of love to the artist.”2

The sitter was a great benefactor of charitable causes and wielded remarkable political power for a woman of her day. Upon the death of her aunt, Elizabeth Allanson, Lawrence inherited Studley Royal in Ripon where she lived from 1808 until her death in 1845. Along with the estate she inherited control of Ripon’s elections and effectively determined the city’s mayoral and council appointments. Lawrence is perhaps best remembered for her devoted preservation efforts toward the ruins of Fountains Abbey, a twelfth-century Cistercian monastery located on Studley Royal’s grounds. Under her patronage, the cloister arcade and roof, tower, and nave arches were all conserved and, largely indebted to her efforts, the abbey survives today as a World Heritage site. Her obituary stated: “there was no project that had for its end the spiritual welfare of mankind, or the amelioration of human suffering, that did not find in her a sincere, and zealous, and valuable friend.”

1 George Romney, Portrait of William Lawrence (1764-1785), untraced; See A. Kidson, George Romney: A Complete Catalogue of His Paintings, vol. II, New Haven 2015, pp. 354-355, cat. no. 779, reproduced.

2 A. B. Chamberlain, George Romney, New York 1910, p. 319.