Yale Center for British Art

Victoria here. I cannot imagine a place I would rather be (on the U.S. side of the pond, anyway) then the Yale Center for British Art. Think of yourself surrounded by wonderful works by Reynolds, Gainsborough,  Stubbs, and many more, not to mention the current exhibition Thomas Lawrence Regency Power and Brilliance.  Here are Diane Gaston (l) and me, keeping company with George IV.  The bust, in white marble, was sculpted by Sir Francis Chantrey (1781-1841) in the year 1827. To quote the label behind my head: “George IV was greedy, spoiled, manipulative, lecherous, foolish, extravagant, and stubborn. But in his heyday during the Regency period, the king was, perhaps more than any of his Hanoverian predecessors, a bold, daring and brilliant patron of the visual arts and of architecture.”

The interior of the YCBA is very comfortable and welcoming. I like a museum where there are lots of seats where one can sit and look at the pictures — and this gallery has the added advantage of windows to the outside.  The picture in the center is by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851), a work with the kind of realistic detail he later eschewed. It is titled Dordrecht, the Dort Packet-boat from Rotterdam Becalmed painted in 1818. I love almost everything by Turner but this particularly engages me.

Here is another view of the galleries, photos attributed to Richard Caspole.  Although I wouldn’t mind being the only patron for a few hours, I must say the place has never been empty when I visited.  The building was designed by was Louis I. Kahn (1901-1974), once a professor of architecture at Yale, and a leading American mid-century architect.  The YCBA is immediately across the street from the Yale Art Gallery, also designed by Kahn, now undergoing renovations.

My report on that collection will have to await a future trip to New Haven, which is actually on my agenda for 2012. That is, if I can tear myself away from the YCBA.
This lovely portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds shows Elizabeth Gunning, Duchess of Hamilton, later Duchess of Argyll (1758-60).  Reynolds (1723-92) was renowned for his portraits of British society ladies, sometimes even depicted with their husbands.  He and Thomas Gainsborough competed for prominence and commissions for many years in London.   The subject of this painting was one of the famous Irish Gunning sisters, renowned for their beauty in mid 18th c. London. Both married peers of the realm, though the elder sister, Maria, Countess of Coventry (1732-1760), died very young.  Elizabeth was the mother of three children from her first marriage and five from her second.  Four of her sons were dukes.

The YCBA has an excellent collection of works by George Stubbs (1724-1806).  This picture of Pumpkin with a Stable-lad was one of the first purchases of British art made by Paul Mellon (1907-1999), whose collection is the nucleus of the YCBA.  Mellon was particularly fond of sporting pictures and of Stubbs in particular.  His father, Andrew Mellon, his uncle and grandfather were the scions of the Mellon Bank and one of America’s greatest fortunes.  Andrew and Paul Mellon were responsible for the creation of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D. C. and gave the Andrew Mellon collection as its most important bequest.

Stubbs was a favorite painter of Paul Mellon, from his racing horses (which reflected Mello
n’s interest in horseracing) to his exotic animals to his dramatically violent pictures of beasts attacking horses. The view to the left, Zebra, dates from 1762–63. Again, the photo is from the YCBA by Richard Caspole. As Zebra was the name of my former publisher, I have a special fondness for the little fellow.

Equally beautiful but shockingly violent is the 1762 painting Lion Attacking a Horse, one of several such views Stubbs painted after supposedly witnessing a similar event while traveling abroad. I guess it makes the scene even more upsetting to us to note that the horse looks much like Trigger.
Paul Mellon graduated from Yale University and was the major benefactor for the YCBA, both the building and the collection. 

Continuing the horsey theme with a more mellow view, this painting by Edward Landseer (1802-1873) depicts The Favourites, the property of H.R.H. Prince George of Cambridge, as seen in 1834-5.  Landseer had a way with animals, didn’t he?
A love for horses and British art are probably the only qualities I share with the late Paul Mellon, but I certainly appreciate his taste and his philanthropy. The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, VA, has also benefited from the Mellon’s donations of British Sporting Art.

At right is Eagle, A Celebrated Stallion,  by James Ward (1769-1859) painted in 1809. 
According to the YCBA,  the picture “exhibits Ward’s remarkable ability to create an accurate physical portrayal of a particular animal. He also evokes a transcendent romantic type suggesting the latent power of the barely tamed creature is full of drive, dash, and tension…”  As you may have guess, I am a bit horse-crazy myself.  Though, looking at these magnificent specimens, who isn’t?

Finally, here are two paintings of London by the renowned Venetian master Giovanni Antonio Canal, known as Canaletto (1697–1768). Before Diane and I visited Yale in early March, we spent the first day of the month with our pals Julie and Carol at Washington’s National Gallery to see the exhibition Canaletto and His Rivals, about which I will post soon. Canaletto was a great favorite of traveling British aristocrats and he came to London for a few years and painted many local scenes. Though I must say I wonder if the boats on the Thames looked quite so much like the gondolas and barges of his home town.

St Paul’s Cathedral by Canaletto, at right. The Italian artist lived in London from 1746 to 1755 and painted many views of England, probably none more magnificently than this.  The cathedral, designed by Sir Christopher Wren in a nearly-Italian baroque style, had been finished in 1710, after its predecessor had been destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666. It must have looked much more familiar to the Venetian Canaletto than other, gothic-style London churches.


Coming soon, a visit to Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library…and more Canaletto from Washington, D.C.

Magnificence at Yale, Part Three

I decided to do a separate blog about what I will call the POWER portraits of the exhibition now at the Yale Center for British Art in New Haven CT.  It will be on view until June 5, 2011, the second and last venue, so if you can possibly make it there, you will be richly rewarded.  Part two, posted on 3/12/11, could have been called BRILLIANCE.  What poured out of me in the 3/8/11 post covered the things that caught my eye first off.  You see, a perfectly rational way to divide up the spoils of this excellent exhibition…. 

To the right is Lawrence’s view of Prince George as Prince Regent, painted about 1814.  George was florid, overweight, dissolute, and flabby, but not in this view, one of the most egregious of Lawrence’s flatteries.  It is in London’s National Portrait Gallery; some observers say that it is unfinished because it was a study for a coin or a medal, a project which never came to fruition. I’ll bet George loved it, for he looks young and vital.

George’s sister, Princess Sophia (1777-1848) was never married, though it is generally accepted that she had a child out of wedlock.  The father may have been her father’s equerry, Thomas Garth.  Others, perhaps with political motives, said the father of her child was her brother the Duke of Cumberland.
As one of the six daughters of King George III and Queen Charlotte, Princess Sophia’s life was constrained by the demands of her parents and court life.  She could not see much of her lover, whoever he was. Not a life I would  wish on anyone. In this brilliant red dress, at age 48, I can almost feel her flirting with Lawrence as she sat for him.  He was quite the ladies’ man, having had many flirtations with princesses, actresses, titled married ladies and others, but none of his relationships grew into marriage. On the other hand, he also was very close to some of his male sitters, leading to occasional suspicions in another direction. For more on his love life,see Jo Manning’s posts here on January 8, 9, and 10, 2011.

The Prince Regent knighted Sir Thomas Lawrence in 1815, about the same time as he commissioned the artist to travel around Europe and paint grand portraits of the victorious allied leaders in the war against Napoleon.  Certainly  this was one of the greatest royal commissions for one artist, and the result was suitably magnificent. Several of the paintings below were shown only at the London venue of this exhibition, but since I had seen them in situ at the Waterloo Chamber in Windsor Castle just last summer, I could forgive the Royal Collections for having kept them on their side of the pond. Above, the Waterloo Chamber painted by Joseph Nash in 1844.

In the upper center of the far wall is this painting of the Duke of Wellington who led the allied troops in the Battle of Waterloo, June 18, 1815.  This painting is not in the exhibition, but it has been reproduced so often that it is bound to be familiar. Like the watercolor of the chamber, above, and most of the other heroes below, it belongs to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

This is the portrait of the Duke to be seen in the New Haven exhibition. I must say I had to drag Diane Gaston away from him; she was sure he was about to speak to her.

This portrait, part of a private collection, was painted in 1820-21, and according to the catalogue, engraved more than any other of Lawrence’s works of Wellington. It was commissioned by the Duke’s close friends, Charles and Harriet Arbuthnot.  Mrs. A is quoted in the catalogue: “It is more like him than any picture I ever saw of him and quite different. All other pictures of him depict him as a hero; this has all the softness and sweetness of countenance which characterises him when he is in the private society of his friends. As a painting, it appears to me : the tone of coloring is so rich. The cloak is just as the Duke wears it, and  the hand is remarkably like.”

Three of the  portraits from the Waterloo Chamber were hung in the London venue of Thomas Lawrence: Regency Power and Brilliance. You will not find them at Yale, but there are several Yale portraits that were not in London, just in case you were wondering.

Field Marshal Gebhardt von Blucher (1742-1819) commanded the Prussian forces that cinched the Allied victory at Waterloo.  He was a courageous and forceful officer

Charles, Archduke of Austria (1771-1847) was painted in 1819 in Vienna. He led the Austrian armies in many battles in which he proved his abilities as a strategist, though he both won and lost against Napoleon during his army career. He was also a distinguished patron of the arts, and Lawrence reportedly enjoyed his companionship.

Lawrence made his first visit to Rome in 1819 to paint Pope Pius VII (1742-1823). This is often admired as the finest portrayal of the Waterloo portraits, an particular achievement, says the catalogue, when one thinks of the brilliant artists who portrayed popes in the past.  Names such as Raphael, Velazquez, Michelangelo, David and many others must have been in Lawrence’s mind as he worked.

A close examination of the portrait reveals the word PAX on the pope’s throne and classical statues from the Vatican collection in the background.

Throughout his career, Lawrence was called on to paint many political leaders of all persuasions in England. We have already seen Lord Liverpool in my post of 3/8/11.  And many of his portraits were of business leaders or scientific personages — but he certainly had more than his share of parliamentary leaders and party spokesmen sitting for him.  At right is George Canning (1770-1827), in a portrait completed in 1822 when he was Foreign Secretary. He served briefly as Prime Minster in 1827 and died in office.

In September, 1809, when Canning was Foreign Secretary, he and Lord Castlereagh  disagreed so violently over the disastrous Walcheren Expedition that they fought a duel on Putney Heath.  Neither waas injured. As Foreign Secretary from 1812 to 1821, Lord Castlereagh represented Britain at the Congress of Vienna and was painted by Lawrence himself. After Castlereagh, who had inherited the title of 2nd Marquess of Londonderry by then, committed suicide in 1821, Canning succeeded him as Foreign Secretary again.  The Londonderry title went to Castlereagh’s half-brother,  Charles William (Vane-) Stewart, later 3rd Marquess of Londonderry, whose portrait by Lawrence is in this exhibition (see post of 3/12/11).

George Hamilton-Gordon, 4th Earl of Aberdeen (1784–1860), is the subject of one of Lawrence’s last portraits.  He was Prime Minister from 1852 to 1855.  The catalogue says the portrait, partly unfinished, “won widespread praise” when it was exhibited after Lawrence’s death.  Painted in 1829-30, it seems to  foreshadow the future success of Lord Aberdeen.

After a brief illness, Lawrence died  on 7 January, 1830. His body lay in state at the Royal Academy before his funeral at St. Paul’s Cathedral, where he is buried in the crypt.  Below, a watercolor of the funeral by J. M. W. Turner, 1830, belonging to the Tate Britain (not in the exhibition).

This is the third of my posts on Thomas Lawrence Regency Power and Brilliance, at the Yale Center for British Art in New Haven, CT.  It will be on display until June 5, 2011.   Soon we will have other posts on our jaunt to Yale. I wish everyone who visits Number One London could have come along. Thanks again to all the wonderful people at Yale, especially Kaci Bayliss and Amy McDonald.

More Magnificence at the Yale Center for British Art, Part Two

Victoria here again, effusing about my visit to New Haven CT to experience in person the delights of Thomas Lawrence: Regency Power and Brilliance.  At left is a self-portrait painted in 1787-88, the earliest work in the exhibition, I believe. It certainly shows great technical ability and promise.  Lawrence was only about eighteen at the time. According to the catalogue essay by Lucy Peltz (Curator of 18th-century Paintings, National Gallery, London), he wrote home at the time from London: “Excepting Sir Joshua, for the painting of a Head, I would risk my reputation with any painter in London.”  Amazing confidence for one so young.  But he had been a prodigy since early youth, encouraged by his innkeeper father to sketch customers to the extent that young Tom was the family’s primary support.  He had occasional stretches of formal education at the Royal Academy, but his career outstripped almost all advice and pedagogy. By 1789, he was painting a portrait of the Queen at Windsor.

Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz  (1744-1818) married King George III in 1761 when she was seventeen years old. She bore him fifteen children.  When she sat for Lawrence, rather unwillingly it seems, she was about 45 years old and disturbed by the King’s recent bouts of peculiar illness, both mental and physical. The events of 1789 in France did not help. Queen Charlotte had  been painted by many artists, including Allan Ramsay,
Benjamin West, Johann Zoffany, Reynolds, and Gainsborough. Neither the Queen nor the King liked the Lawrence and never paid him. But it was highly praised at the 1790 Royal Academy exhibition and is now in the collection of the National Gallery, London.

Arthur Atherley (1771-1844) was painted in 1792 when he was about age twenty. Exhibited simply titled “Portrait of an Etonian,” the painting was said by one reviewer to be comparable to Sir Joshua (Reynolds), certainly high praise for Lawrence, the relative newcomer to the London art scene.

Mary Hamilton, Later Mary Denham, d. 1837
graphic and red and black chalk, executed in 1789

Mrs. Hamilton read to Lawrence and her husband, artist William Hamilton, while they drew antique statues in the evening.  This drawing was probably a gift to the couple, though Lawrence sent it to the RA for exhibition in 1789.  As Lawrence’s star rose, however, Hamilton’s career did not flourish and the two men grew apart.

William Lock, the Younger (1767-1847), drawn in black chalk on canvas, sometime between 1795 and 1800.

One of the strengths of this exhibition is the excellent selection of drawings by Lawrence, which are far less familiar then his dazzling oil portraits, but equally pleasing to the visitor. 

Lock was part of the “charmed circle” of families that Lawrence became part of, including the Angersteins and Locks. He drew and painted many members of the families and particularly their children.

William Lock’s sister Amelia married John Angerstein in 1799.

This portrait of John Julius Angerstein (1796-1823) was painted in 1790. Angerstein was a wealthy insurance broker in the City of London and one of Lawrence’s earliest supporter, as patron, friend and banker.  He was important to the development of Lloyd’s of London, and was a prominent art collector.  He was born in Russia, and it has been rumored that he was the illegitimate son of Catherine the Great, but it is more likely that he was of much more modest birth. Nevertheless, he acquired a considerable fortune.  Lawrence advised Angerstein on some of his old master purchases. After his death, the collection was purchased by the government to be part of the new National Gallery which now sits above Trafalgar Square.

These Children of John Angerstein, painted in
1807, were the grandchildren of John Julius Angerstein, above. The choice of pose is unusual in that wealthy children of privileged families are rarely portrayed with shovel and broom. The catalogue essay speculates that the elder Angerstein’s philanthropic interest in children would promote, “the hoped-for future for children…the right to play outdoors and enjoy autonomy, and to influence one another through action and word. If a child sweeps as young John Julius Angerstein does, he should do so for enjoyment. In this way the children embody the promise of philanthropy for future generations.”

Countess Therese Czernin (1798-1896), drawn in 1819, was the daughter of an Austrian general. Apparently it remained in the family of the countess and was not known until it was sent to an auction in 1985, where it was revealed as the work of Lawrence. It is now owned by a private collection.  It makes one wonder what other treasures might be lurking in some old castle attic. Another work by Lawrence? A letter from Jane Austen?  A lover’s eye ring?  If you find anything in your castle, please send word.

Several years ago, I stayed at the National Trust Hotel that is part of Ickworth, an estate in Suffolk, built by the Earl Bishop, Frederick Hervey (1730-1803),  4th Earl of Bristol and Bishop of Derry (see our post of 3/9/11).  He built his remarkable house in the last decades of the 18th century. One of his daughters was Lady Elizabeth Hervey (1757-1824), who married John Foster in 1776.  After having two sons with Foster, Bess left him and in 1782 became the close friend and confidante of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. She enjoyed a rather warm relationship with William Cavendish (1748-1811), 5th Duke of Devonshire, as well and bore the duke two children who were raised with the three legitimate Cavendish children. Speculating on the precise nature of this menage a trois tickles our imagination.  After Georgiana died in 1806, Lady Elizabeth became the 5th duke’s second wife in 1809. He did not survive long, dying in 1811, but she lived on as the Duchess of Devonshire until 1824.  If she indeed resembled this portrait drawn by Lawrence when she was age 63 or so, one might understand what kind of charisma the lady had.

Occupying an interesting point between chalk drawings and a finished painting is this unfinished portrait of Emilia, Lady Cahir, later Countess of Glengall (1776-1836) done in 1804-05.  There are three heads here, though it is difficult to see the one on the left.  It is visible in the exhibition if you look closely.  You might be able to make out the lips and the nose of the left-most head just below and to the left of the center head’s chin.

The work was perhaps done at a house party at Bentley Priory where Emilia and Thomas Lawrence both played roles in theatricals. Bentley Priory belonged to the Marquess of Abercorn and was the scene of many country house theatricals.

Charles William (Vane-)Stewart, later 3rd Marquess of Londonderry (1778-1854) was painted in 1812. The catalogue says it is “celebrated as one of the ultimate icons of British military portraiture.”

As Undersecretary for War and one of Wellington’s Adjutant-Generals, Stewart cuts a glamorous and colorful figure.  His uniform is of a cavalry officer, a dashing hussar, with the details and medals highlighted. The portrait also represents a turning point for Lawrence, bringing him an introduction to the Prince Regent and eventual commissions for the Waterloo Chamber portraits (detailed in my next post on the Yale exhibition).

George James Welbore Agar-Ellis, later 1st Lord Dover  (1797-1833), painted  a decade later in 1823-24, shows Lawrence extending his bravura palette of colors into the world of the civilian male.  He was particularly fond of Agar-Ellis who proposed that Parliament purchase the collection of the Late J.J. Angerstein (see above) for the nucleus of a national collection.

To complete this trio of handsome Regency heroes, the portrait at left, again over life size, seems to sum up everything about an aristocrat in his element: Lord Granville Leveson-Gower (1773-1846), later 1st Earl Granville, whose expression, almost a smirk, is absolutely perfect. He was painted in 1804-06 when he was serving as British Ambassador to Russia. Later he was ambassador France.

A younger son of the 1st Marquess of Stafford, he married Lady Harriet Elizabeth Cavendish (1785-1862), known as Harry-O, daughter of the 5th Duke of Devonshire and his wife, Georgiana, in 1809.  They had five children and raised the two by-blows Granville fathered with his mistress, Harry-O’s  aunt, Lady Harriet Bessborough.  He was raised to the peerage as a Viscount in 1815 and to the title of Earl Granville in 1833.

This painting of Lord Granville Leveson-Gower dates from 1804-1809 and is part of the YCBA’s Paul Mellon Collection
  Though it might not sound like an auspicious beginning for a marriage, with Granville’s several affairs kn
own to Harry-O, apparently it grew into a strong relationship, as both partners also grew in religious fervor — along with many of the formerly-loose members of Regency society as the years passed into Victorian sobriety and admiration for moral rectitude. At right, a painting of the happy Granville family by Thomas Phillips. Definitely NOT a Lawrence and not in the exhibition.

Rosamund Hester Elizabeth Pennell Croker, later Lady Barrow (1809-1906) was painted by Lawrence in 1826. When exhibited at the RA in 1827, it was highly praised and often surround by admiring patrons.
In the catalogue essay, Cassandra Albinson writes, “Lawrence felt one could judge artists’ skill by how they executed white satin, as in the dress depicted here.”  I would say this one is very skillful!

Notice that she lived a very long life, reaching the age of  96 or 97. 
Lady Selina Meade, later Countess of Clam-Martinics
 (?1797-1872 ) was painted in Vienna in 1819 and exhibited at the RA the next year. Observers called attention to the highlights of her pearl earrings and gold headband as perfect compliments to her beauty. Note also the excellence of the white satin.  The catalogue contends she had been courted by Lord Granville Leveson-Gower but in 1821 she married an Austrian, Karl Graf von Clam-Martinics.  
Julia Beatrice Peel  (1821-93) was  painted in 1826-28 when she was about 6 years old. Another adorable child, like we saw in my earlier post on this exhibition. One of Lawrence’s true gifts was his ability to portray the beauty and innocence of children. Julia Peel was the daughter of Sir Robert Peel (1788-1850) who was Home Secretary at the time of the portrait. Later he served as Prime Minister 1834-35 and again 1841-45.  He founded the London police force; they are still called Bobbies, after him. Julia married George Augustus Frederick Child Villiers, who  became the 6th Earl of Jersey, so she was another Lady Jersey.  This portrait, like that of Leveson-Gower, is shown only at Yale.

William Wilberforce (1759-1833) is the man who campaigned for more than twenty years to end the slave trade, which was accomplished in 1807. In 2006, there was an excellent movie about his life, titled Amazing Grace. I recommend it; though it has a few historical inaccuracies, the gist is correct. Making up for any deficiencies in the facts are the excellent performances by a fine cast: Ioan Gruffudd as Wilberforce, Romola Garai as Barbara Spooner, Benedict Cumberbatch as William Pitt the Younger, Albert Finney as John Newton (who wrote the famous hymn), Michael Gambon as Charles James Fox (who actually died before the bill passed), and Rufus Sewell as Thomas Clarkson.

Here is a final self portrait by Lawrence, painted in 1825, five years before his death.  Like the Wilberforce and many other of his canvasses, it was unfinished.  Lawrence left a huge number of semi-completed pictures in his Russell Square studio some of which had already been paid for.  He also left numerous debts. 

I would never presume to be able to divide the pictures into the two categories of the Power and the Brillliance, but I almost have done so in this post — the Brilliance. And in my third post, I will concentrate on the Power. Stay tuned.  And just to remind you of how lucky I was to have a fellow writer as a companion, here is a repeat of us in front of the exhibition, Diane Gaston on the right. 

Sir Thomas Lawrence Arrives at Yale

Opening today, February 24, 2011: Thomas Lawrence: Regency Power and Brilliance will be on view at the Yale Center for British Art until June 5, 2011.

Kristine and Jo Manning both saw the exhibition in its first venue at the National Portrait Gallery in London.  Victoria hopes to be there in a few days…and I will report on my visit.  You can read our previous posts on this blog on 10/20/10, 1/7-8-9-10/11, and 2/2/11.  We find Sir Thomas to be a fascinating subject and the exhibition equally so.

Thomas Lawrence, self-portrait from 1788, right, was born in Bristol in 1769. He was a child prodigy and by age 10, when his family moved to Bath, he supported then with his drawings in pastels.  He moved to London at age 18 and was soon hailed as an up and coming talented successor to Sir Joshua Reynolds, then Britain’s leading portraitist.

One of his fine portraits, of a friend’s wife, Mary Hamilton, is shown in the exhibition, and makes one eager for more of the early pastels. But clients were eager for portraits in oils, and Lawrence excelled here too. He drew Mary Hamilton in pencil, red and black chalk in 1789. The British Museum, which owns the work, writes, “This important drawing of Mary Hamilton is arguably the most beautiful female portrait of its type remaining in this country.”  A detail of the drawing was used as the cover for a 2008 exhibition at the British Museum The Intimate Portrait, below.

Lawrence’s portrait of Queen Charlotte,  wife of George III, brought him fame and eventually fortune. Exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1790, the canvas was praised for its detail and its fine brushwork.

The stunning portrait of actress Elizabeth Farren, later Countess of Derby, exhibited at the RA in 1790, is one of the exhibition posters offered for purchase.  For information on the Yale exhibition, the catalogue, posters and more, click here.   Elizabeth Farren (1759-1829) began her London stage career in 1777, appearing in Goldsmith’s She Stoops to Conquer. She became the object of Lord Derby’s affections, and after his first wife died, Farren married him in 1797. She thus retired from the theatre and became a countess, wife of a prominent Whig member of the House of Lords. They were parents of three children.

Jonathan Jones, reviewing the exhibition as shown in London, wrote in The Guardian: “Lawrence is a painter who triumphed in his lifetime, yet was forgotten afterwards. Why was he neglected? The question echoes through this extremely interesting exhibition… It is because he associated with the wrong royal… Raddled and bloated and unpopular, George IV looks out of Lawrence’s Wallace Collection masterpiece as if he knows full well that in centuries to come, people will joke that ‘there are pieces of lemon peel floating in the Thames that would make a better monarch’.”

But Lawrence’s relationship with the Prince Regent, later George IV, was lucrative and certainly added to his fame. The Regent sent Lawrence around Europe to paint the leaders of the allied victory over Napoleon. The paintings hang in Windsor Castle, though many copies executed in Lawrence’s studio, can be seen in palaces, mansions and museums worldwide.

The Duke of Wellington was the real hero of the  battle, but many, including a coalition of European leaders contributed to the long-sought defeat of Napoleon. Lawrence painted the Duke a number of times, including here on the back of Copenhagen, the horse who carried him throughout the day-long Battle of Waterloo.

Victoria has long adored this painting, from the collection of the Chicago Art Institute. As a child, she often stood in front of Mrs.Jens Wolff and wondered what made this elegant lady so sad. The portrait was commissioned in 1802 or 03 by the sister of Mrs. Wolff and exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1815.  Isabella Wolff was the wife of the Danish Consul in London; they divorced in 1813. She is portrayed as the

Erythraean Sibyl (similar to the Sistine Chapel version) and she gazes at a book of engravings by Michelangelo. Lawrence and Isabella Wolff may have been romantically involved for some years, though why it took the artist a dozen years to complete the portrait is a good question. They continued to write to one another until her death.

Thomas Lawrence: Regency Power and Brilliance will be on display at the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT,  until June 5, 2011.  We will report  again after our visit. For more information on the Yale Center for British Art, click here.