Sir Thomas Lawrence, P.R.A. (Bristol 1769-1830 London)
Sir Thomas Lawrence, P.R.A. (Bristol 1769-1830 London)

Portrait of Mrs John Bradburne, half-length

Sir Thomas Lawrence, P.R.A. (Bristol 1769-1830 London)
Portrait of Mrs John Bradburne, half-length
oil on canvas
30 1/8 x 25 1/8 in. (76.5 x 63.9 cm.)
By descent to J.E. Bradburne, Elm Grove, Wimburne, Hampshire; Christie's, London, 5 July 1907, lot 101 (2,450 gns.) to the following
with Agnew's, London.
with Duveen, 20 Place Vendôme, Paris from whom acquired on 14 May 1910 for FF 162,500 by the following
Private collection, France, and by descent; their sale, Christie's, Paris, 15 September 2016, lot 149.
Sir W. Armstrong, Lawrence, London, 1913, p. 116.
G. Grappe, 'Une exposition de Maîtres anglais du XVIIIe siècle', in L'Illustration, 5 May 1934, p. 27, no. 4757, illustrated.
K. Garlick, Sir Thomas Lawrence, London, 1954, p. 29.
K. Garlick, 'Catalogue of the paintings, drawings and pastels of Sir Thomas Lawrence', Walpole Society, XXXIX, 1964, p. 41.
K. Garlick, Sir Thomas Lawrence: a Complete Catalogue of the Oil Paintings, Oxford, 1989, p. 157, no. 125, illustrated.
Paris, Galerie Charpentier, Exposition de maîtres anglais du XVIIIe siècle, April-May 1934, no. 59.

Lot Essay

Depicting Mrs John Bradburn, Sir Thomas Lawrence's portrait dates to the latter half of the 1790s, when he was already established as the leading portraitist in Georgian London. He had moved there in 1787, aged 18, and his precocious talent was soon recognized. Until then, Lawrence had worked predominantly as a portraitist in pastel, but from the moment of his arrival in London, he turned his attention almost exclusively to painting in oil, which he mastered with extraordinary speed. In a letter to his mother dated 1788 he displayed full confidence in his abilities in the medium, commenting that ‘excepting Sir Joshua, for the painting of a head, I would risk my reputation with any painter in London’. Lawrence first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1788. Soon after, in September 1789, he received a summons to paint Queen Charlotte at Windsor Castle: an unprecedented commission for a twenty-year-old. The Royal Academy exhibition of 1790, in which he exhibited not only his remarkable full-length portrait of the queen (National Gallery, London), but also his celebrated full-length portrait of Elizabeth Farren (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York), was to seal his reputation, and cement his position as the natural heir to Sir Joshua Reynolds. Lawrence was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy in 1791 and, on Reynolds' death a year later, he succeeded him as Painter to the Dilettanti Society, and was also appointed Painter-in-Ordinary to the King. His prodigious artistic ability was fully recognized with his election as a full member of the Royal Academy in 1794, at the youngest permitted age of twenty-five.
The fluent, vivid handling of paint, with rich impasto and strong contrasts of light and shade, is characteristic of Lawrence’s portraits of the 1790s. Lawrence depicts Mrs Bradburne in a ‘round gown’ of white muslin, held in place with a pink silk sash. White cotton had first been popularized as informal wear by Queen Marie-Antoinette in the 1780s and became all the more widespread in England and France in the following decade. The fashion reflected a contemporary admiration for the classical and a reaction against the convoluted costume of the ancient régime. In keeping with the French aesthetic, many Regency women abandoned elaborate hairstyles and hats in favor of simpler coiffures and plain head coverings. Hair was lightly curled and allowed to fall over the shoulders, as worn by Mrs Bradburne. Her white muslin headdress might suggest a neo-classical veil or the French fashion for scarves à la paysanne or à la citoyenne.
During this period, Lawrence also produced a portrait of her husband, John Bradburne (d. 1809), now in the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool (fig. 1). Bradburne came from a distinguished Derbyshire family that had resided in Bradburn, near Ashbourne, since the 16th century. From 1799, he was a freeholder of Windlesham, Surrey and it is possible that the purchase of their home, Woodlands, inspired the commissions from Lawrence. Woodlands was inherited by the Bradburne’s eldest son, Harry (d. 1837), a Captain in the Queen’s Bays (2nd Dragoon Guards); he sold the estate a few years after to James Fyler, Esq.

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