Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of Anne Goddard Lady Lethbridge (d.1857) 1803c.

Sir Thomas Lawrence PRA (1769-1830)

Portrait of Anne Goddard Lady Lethbridge (d.1857), Sir Thomas Lawrence PRA
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Oil on canvas
19th Century
30 x 25 inches 76 x 63.5 cm
 
Provenance:
Commissioned by Sir Thomas Lethbridge (1778 – 1849); By descent in the Lethbridge Family at Sandhills Park, Somerset; With Sulley, London; J.T. Blakeslee, New York 1913; Christie’s, New York January 15th 1986 (lot 60); Private Collection, US.
Literature:
Sir Walter Armstrong Lawrence London 1913 p.146 Kenneth Garlick Sir Thomas Lawrence A Complete Catalogue of the Oil Paintings Phaidon Press 1989 p.223 (ill.)
To view portraits by Thomas Lawrence for sale, please go to www.philipmould.com.

We are grateful to Mr Edward Lethbridge for supplying information about the Lethbridge family and for showing us photographs of the portrait in situ at Sandhills Park

When Sir Thomas Lethbridge remarried in 1803, he chose as his second wife Anne Goddard, the daughter of Ambrose Goddard Member of Parliament for Swindon. Lethbridge was building his political career, and Goddard may well have struck him as a suitable local patron for his political ambitions. He was at least an uncontroversial figure, since, in the words of The Gentleman’s Magazine the Wiltshire gentry had nominated him ‘not for the affluence of fortune, or pre-eminence of talents, but… the probity of his principles and character.’ The alliance between the Goddards and the Lethbridges must have been particularly rewarding, as it was strengthened in August 1818 with the marriage of Jessy Catherine Lethbridge, one of Sir Thomas’s daughters from his first marriage to Jessy Catherine Hesketh of Rufford Hall in Lincolnshire, to Ambrose Goddard, the second Lady Goddard’s kinsman.

By the date of this portrait, Lawrence was beginning to escape comparison with John Hoppner, his rival of the 1790s, and was making a name for the style that was so uniquely his own. This portrait of Anne Lady Lethbridge, the second wife of Sir Thomas Lethbridge of Sandhills Park in Somerset, shows very clearly how this was so. He overcomes the restrictions of the head-and-shoulders three-quarters of a yard portrait by infusing it with dynamic and sensual movement. This is apparent in every aspect, with the sinuous turn of the sitter’s neck and melting upturned gaze, which like her ‘empire’ dress reveal the debt to, and interest in, classical sculpture and form that defined the taste of the age.

This alone would not make the image memorable, and in another hand might appear a laboured quotation, but Lawrence’s complete command of colour and of the very medium of oil, guarantees otherwise. Her dress flows over her bust in thick white paint, whose line is echoed by the folds of her shawl, giving a restless urgency to her movement, almost an impatience to break out of the narrow confine of the composition. This may be as much the painter’s preoccupation as the sitter’s, since Lawrence began to use this size of canvas less and less in the following decade when he would seem to have preferred the more expansive possibilities of the larger ‘Kit Cat.’ The power conveyed by the tighter composition here is memorable, however, and the unspoken drama that the sitter conveys is intensified by the lowering, stormy sky, and the picture communicates a romantic sensibility that would very shortly come to be labelled Byronic.
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