Charlotte Adamson, the eldest daughter of Robert Adamson of Westmeath, married Sir Godfrey Vassal Webster, 5th Bt., of Battle Abbey, in 1814.
Sir John Fleming Leicester, 5th Bt. (1762-1827), later Lord de Tabley, who commissioned this portrait, was a notable patron of the arts. Unlike many of his contemporaries the main body of his collecting was not done while on the Grand Tour, which he made in 1785, but later in life, when back in England. He became passionate in his desire to promote the British School of artists and his collecting reflected his ambition. His picture buying really began after he acquired a lease on a London house, no. 24 Hill Street, Mayfair, where he built a gallery in order to show them. He bought some thirty pictures between 1806 and 1810, after which his collecting then eased off, with some renewed activity in 1813/14, until 1818, when he decided to open the gallery to the public. In years immediately afterwards he bought some fifteen more pictures. Among other artists, he commissioned works from Sir Augustus Wall Callcott, Benjamin Robert Haydon, Sir Thomas Lawrence, James Northcote, John Opie, William Owen, James Ward and most famously Joseph Mallord William Turner. He also bought works by Sir Joshua Reynolds, Thomas Gainsborough and George Romney. A catalogue of his pictures was compiled by William Carey in 1819 and John Young produced an illustrated catalogue in 1825. In 1823 the collection was offered to Lord Liverpool as the nucleus of the National Gallery but the offer was declined and on Sir John's death it was sold in the gallery by James Christie. Lord de Tabley had done much to raise the estimation and price of British pictures and it was feared that the sale might undo his work but these fears were not realised.
Several letters relating to the commission for this portrait are in the papers at Tabley House (see D.Hall, op.cit., pp.82-83). A letter from Sir Thomas Lawrence to Sir John Leicester, dated May 1813, acknowledges receipt for half the price of Miss Adamson's portrait. Another letter from the artist, dated 4 May 1814, refers to the completion of the portrait 'I am indeed very happy to have executed this gratifying commission to your satisfaction, and (comparatively with my other Works) to my own' . However, the picture was not wholly finished as several later letters between artist and patron make clear, and Lawrence was finally obliged to write to Sir John on 7th February 1818 returning 105 'the sum which he received from Sir John Leicester on the first sittings for the portrait of Miss Adamson'. Notwithstanding the delay, Sir John Leicester was still sufficiently pleased with the result to return the money and to reply on the same sheet 'Sir J. Leicester must beg to return Sr. Thos. Lawrence Enclosure - Sir J. estimates the Head only for Excellence of Execution and Likeness to the original very highly, and if Sr. Th. feels inclined to put it in a more finished state, shall be much obliged'.
After Lord de Tabley's death Lady Webster claimed that 'the late Lord de Tabley had promised her mother that the portrait should be restored to her at his death and it was on that condition that she was allowed to sit' and the picture was eventually bought from Lord de Tabley's Trustees by her husband for 100 in 1830. The origin of the commission remains obscure but it seems likely that Lady Webster lived for a while at Tabley House, Cheshire, as a companion to Lady Leicester, who was her own age. Sir John Leicester had commissioned a portrait of his wife, full-length, as Hope, from Lawrence in 1811 for which Lawrence received payment in 1814 (now in the collection of The University of Manchester, Tabley House, Cheshire; see K.Garlick op.cit., no.480).