The Berger Collection

Sir Thomas Lawrence, PRA (1769-1830)
Self-Portrait, 1787-88
Oil on canvas
23 1/4 x 19 3/4 in. (59 x 50 cm)

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This self-portrait shows Sir Thomas Lawrence as a young man at the start of his career. His sideways pose suggests that he painted himself with the canvas and a mirror before him. He grips the seat of the chair with his left hand (reversed in the mirror) as he paints with his right hand, a position that, judging by the number of alterations, presented Lawrence with numerous difficulties.

Until recently the painting was thought to be a portrait of Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey (1764-1845), but is now believed to be the self-portrait sold to Lawrence’s patron William Dacres Adams in 1831, the year after the artist’s death. Lawrence was apparently reluctant to paint self-portraits, and only three other examples in oil are known to exist – in the Royal Academy, London, ca. 1825; in the Victoria Art Gallery, Bath, probably painted in his early twenties; and a third painting, from about 1786, whose whereabouts have been unknown since 1911.


The artist's studio sale, Christie's, June 18, 1831, lot 74; bought by William Dacres Adams; his son Mayow Adams, The Old House, Sydenham (1882 inventory); his grandson, Herbert Fisher-Rowe, 1898; his wife, Maud Fisher-Rowe 1938; her cousin, Lt. Col. Gile Vandeleur, 1960; Vandeleur sale, Sotheby's, March 8, 1961, lot 66 (sold as Earl Grey by Lawrence); John de Tracy-Kelly, Audley House, Oxfordshire; Tracy-Kelly sale, Mallams, Oxford, April 25, 1995, lot 53; Christie's, South Kensington, January 18, 1996, lot 162 (sold as Portrait of a Gentleman, thought to be Earl Grey, by Circle of Lawrence); Elwes & Hanham, London

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