This unpublished and unfinished portrait of the Third Marquess of Londonderry by Sir Thomas Lawrence has been accepted by Kenneth Garlick as autograph from transparencies. He states 'I have never seen this before. It's splendid. I think it may be my 509a but it seems a little too unfinished to have been exhibited at the R.A.' (written communication, 5 March 2006).
Garlick's reference to 509a (see K. Garlick, Sir Thomas Lawrence, Oxford, 1989, pp. 228-9, no. 509) is to a lost portrait of the Third Marquess of Londonderry, painted circa 1810-1, of the same dimensions as the present lot that was thought to have perished in a fire at Wynyard Park in 1884 or, alternatively, to have been given by the sitter to a Continental friend. However, that portrait is recorded by Farington as having been exhibited at the R.A. of 1811 and, as Garlick observes, the present work is probably too unfinished to be identified with that one.
The present work can, however, more likely be identified with a portrait of Londonderry that was still in Lawrence's studio at his death and that was described by his executor as a sketch. Confusingly, Garlick (op. cit., p. 229) links this reference to an apparently resolved half-length portrait in profile, painted at Vienna in 1818, which he publishes as 509c (collection of the Marquess of Londonderry). The re-emergence of the present work, which seems to date from the height of the sitter's military career circa 1813-15, is significant since it appears to have been the portrait of his intimate and 'constant friend' that the artist retained in his possession.
Lawrence had painted portraits of the sitter's half-brother, Lord Castlereagh in 1794 and 1810. His earliest portrait of Stewart was exhibited at the R.A. of 1811. Lawrence then painted around 1812-3 two versions of a second portrait which depicts the sitter in Hussar uniform with the Peninsular Medal (collection of the Marquess of Londonderry, Wynyard Park; and private collection). The present, unfinished study would seem to date from around this time although it is not clear whether the artist ever intended to resolve it as a composition. A close friendship delevoped as a result of these sittings and in July 1814 Stewart asked the Prince Regent, who had never patronized Lawrence, to sit for the full-length portrait exhibited in 1815 which is now at Wynyard. Stewart was also instrumental in helping to secure Lawrence's commission to paint the heroic series of portraits for the Waterloo Chamber.
The Hon. Charles William Stewart (1778-1854), the son of Robert Stewart, successively 1st Baron (1789), Earl (1799) and finally Marquess of Londonderry (1816) was the half-brother of Viscount Castlereagh, the Foreign Secretary, whom he succeeded as Marquess of Londonderry in 1822. The sitter had a long and successful military career, serving as Adjutant-General to the Duke of Wellington from 1809 to 1812. As a cavalry officer during the Peninsular War he distinguished himself at the battles of Talavera and Fuentes d'Onoro, amongst others, with gallant and often reckless charges at the enemy lines. At Oporto, the French commander, Foy, described his action as 'un charge incroyable'. Wellington refused to trust him with a substantial cavalry command, telling the Duke of York that, with his defective sight and hearing, his gallantry would be apt to lead him into difficulties 'from which even the superiority of our men and horses would not be able to extricate our cavalry'.
Through the influence of Castlereagh, he embarked on a career as a diplomat and in 1813 was appointed British minister to the Court of Berlin, in which role he served as a military superintendent. He took part in the battle at Bautzen, as well as Blucher's cavalry stroke at Haynau. He helped to storm one of the redoubts at Dresden, and was severely wounded at Kulm. He was said, as ambassador, 'to be always at the post of danger', and 'to have no other object in view than to go in quest of death wherever it is most likely to be found'.
The following year Stewart was appointed ambassador to Vienna. He assisted Castlereagh, and afterwards Wellington, in the negotiations of the congress there, being especially concerned with the affairs of Switzerland. At Vienna his love of finery in dress earned him the name 'the golden peacock' and his drinking attracted unfavorable comment while his womanizing shocked the diarist Charles Greville, as well as attracting the attention of the Austrian secret police.
In 1819 Stewart married as his second wife, Frances Anne, daughter and heiress of Sir Henry Vane Tempest, 2nd Bart. of Wynyard, and the development of his wife's great estates in County Durham was to become the major pre-occupation of his later years.