Portrait of the Hon. Emily Mary Lamb

Lawrence depicts the 16-year old Emily Lamb as though in motion, her head turning back towards the viewer. The pose is one with a long tradition in the history of portraiture, but Lawrence treats it with a freshness reflected in the informality and economy of his brushwork.

The painting was commissioned by Emily’s father, Peniston Lamb, 1st Earl Melbourne, who can also be seen in the Gallery represented in Stubbs’s, The Milbanke and Melbourne Families, of about 1769.

Emily Lamb went on to become an influential, politically prominent society hostess, first marrying Peter Leopold Clavering-Cowper, 5th Earl Cowper.  After his death in 1839 she married Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston, who served twice as Prime Minister between 1855 and 1858 and again from 1859 to 1865.  Her brother, Viscount Melbourne, also served as Prime Minister.

Key facts

Artist dates
1769 - 1830
Full title
Portrait of the Hon. Emily Mary Lamb (1787-1869), later Countess Cowper and Viscountess Palmerston
Date made
Medium and support
Oil on canvas
45.7 x 50.8 cm
Acquisition credit
Accepted by HM Government in lieu of Inheritance Tax and allocated to the National Gallery, 2011
Inventory number
Location in Gallery