Elizabeth Jennings was the daughter of Henry Constantine Jennings (1731-1819), of Shiplake, Oxfordshire, and his wife Frederica Augusta, youngest daughter of Sir Luke Schaub, the celebrated picture collector. Her father, a slightly eccentric virtuoso, had earned the nickname 'Dog Jennings' on account of his discovery and purchase, while travelling in Rome, of an antique marble statue of a dog, twice lifesize, which acquired great fame on its arrival in England (see The Treasure Houses of Great Britain, catalogue to the Exhibition at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985, under no. 243). His daughter was celebrated for her beauty, indeed the artist and diarist Joseph Farington (1747-1821) remarked that her beauty was such 'as to cause Her to be the object of general attention during two or three seasons successively in London witht. a rival to be put in competition with Her.' (1 November 1810, Garlick, 1979, X, p. 3782). Farington, who was a close friend of Lawrence, was to follow the progress of this portrait with particular interest. In his diary entry for 5 June 1798 he wrote 'Lawrence painting beautiful Miss Jennings (op.cit., III, p. 1016). The following year, when the portrait was nearly complete, Farington breakfasted with Lawrence and they discussed the portrait in some depth:
'- I told him that it was a picture of a higher order than any female portrait I had seen of his painting, - more sober & solid, and free from flickering lights. The principal defect appeared to me to be, that the arms did not appear to be of the same flesh as the face & neck, but too cold & purply, and that the light sash which was thrown round the waist & arms was too much of the same colour with that of the skin, the whole too pinky. He admitted readily the truth of the remark. I said there wanted an opposition - a change of colour to give value to the flesh, -& to produce richness. I mentioned that possibly a little blue might be of service if it could be introduced ........ He received all I said very kindly, and declared that my opinion had at different times been of more use to him than that of any other person ... he asked me if I thought He should put into the Exhibition [Royal Academy] any whole lengths of ladies, I told him by no means, unless they are as well painted as that of Miss Jennings ...' (op.cit., 17 March 1799, IV, p.1175).
The following Sunday Farington was again at Lawrence's studio, at the artist's request, discussing finishing touches to the portrait:
'we then looked at his portrait of Miss Jennings now in its frame - I saw that the light on the picture was too strong and we agreed that it wd. be best to glaze it into shade & then by reflected lights only. I went home and returned to him after a few hours and found the picture prodigiously benefitted by alteration. He then tried pink and blue on the shoe, - those colours did not answer, I recommended yellow brown, which answered, and gave value to many other colours.- I told him the neck had the appearance of coarseness from a fat wheal in it, & and did not seem to be the neck of that face. - he felt the observation immediately. I then recommended to him to try the effect of a strong yellow colour abt. the right arm above the light , to pass round bracelet form- he did and was delighted with it, I then recommended to him to make the upper part of the sky of a more grey silvery colour, at present it is of a tanny, leathery tint, - I left him making the alterations ...' (op.cit., IV, p.1184).
When the portrait was finally completed Lawrence exhibited it at the Royal Academy, where it was acclaimed by both his fellow artists and the wider public. Farington recorded the scene when it was brought to the Academy: 'Lawrence's picture .... caused great alarm among the portrait painters. - Beechey said if he had seen it before He sent his pictures, He wd. only have sent his portrait of Lord Cornwallis. Opie and Northcote also appeared to be struck with it. - and West said it made all the other portraits of women look like dowdies.' (op.cit., 23 April 1799, IV, p.1208). The next day he reported back to Lawrence that 'his picture of Miss Jennings stands Exhibition well' (op.cit, 24 April 1799, IV, p.1210).
Elizabeth Jennings married William Lock, the eldest son of William Lock of Norbury Park, Surrey, in 1805. Her husband's family were the centre of an intellectual and artistic coterie, centred around Norbury Park and their house in London, which included, among others, Samuel Johnson, the Burney family, the Angersteins and distinguished French emigrs such as Madame de Stael. They were also closely connected to Lawrence. Her father-in-law had encouraged and supported the artist from his first years in London and Lawrence remained a close family friend. The artist portrayed the elder William Lock in 1799 (now in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; see K. Garlick, op.cit., 1989, no. 499) and later executed a portrait of his wife in 1829 ( Nelson Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City Missouri; K. Garlick, no. 500). The sitter's husband sat to Lawrence for a portrait which was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1791 (whereabouts unknown; see K. Garlick, no. 501). A fine bust-length drawing of her husband, dateable to circa 1790, perhaps a study for the oil portrait, was sold in these Rooms on 17 November 1992, lot 28 (42,000). Elizabeth Lock's brother-in-law, Charles, his wife, Cecilia, and her sister-in-law, Amelia, who married John Angerstein in 1799, also sat to Lawrence for portraits, the latter for a full-length, in the same year -1799- that her future sister-in-law was portrayed (see K. Garlick, nos. 502, 503 and 35 respectively). It was a family tradition that was to continue, for both of the sitters' children were to be portrayed by the artist later in his career: William Lock (1804-32), when still a young boy, in 1814 (see K. Garlick, no.504), and Elizabeth (1806-77), who married Joseph, 3rd Baron Wallscourt of Ardfry, Galway, in 1822, in 1825 (see K. Garlick, no. 794, pl. 82; see fig.....................).
This portrait was reduced from a full-length to its present format circa 1912. Lawrence also painted two smaller portraits of the sitter, of 30 x 25 in. format (see K. Garlick, 1989, nos. 440 b and c). The former descended to the sitter's great-great-granddaughter Vittoria, Duchess of Sermoneta. The latter was sold in these Rooms, 12 July 1990, lot 53 (48,000).