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Sir Thomas Lawrence, 'The Hon. Peniston Lamb', about 1790

Key facts
Full title Portrait of the Hon. Peniston Lamb
Artist Sir Thomas Lawrence
Artist dates 1769 - 1830
Date made about 1790
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 76.2 × 63.5 cm
Acquisition credit Accepted in lieu of Inheritance Tax by HM Government from the estate of George Pinto and allocated to the National Gallery, 2019
Inventory number NG6686
Location Not on display
Image copyright © Christie’s, London, 2019
Collection Main Collection
The Hon. Peniston Lamb
Sir Thomas Lawrence

This informal and striking portrait of the politician Peniston Lamb (1770–1805) shows off the precocious powers of Sir Thomas Lawrence at the start of his career.

The 'gentle-hearted and engaging’ Peniston Lamb was the Member of Parliament for Newport from 1793 to 1796 and the Member for Hertfordshire from 1802 until his death from tuberculosis in January 1805. In this portrait, Lawrence has depicted Lamb emerging dramatically from a gloomy backdrop; his illuminated face framed by the white highlights of his necktie and powdered hair. His head is turned at an angle so that his left eye is placed at the exact midpoint of the canvas; looking assertively out at the viewer under a deft sweep of arched eyebrow. Speedily and dexterously applied paint suggests the contrasting textures of the sitter’s smooth skin, fashionably powdered hair and velvet coat, while the voluptuous tumble of the cravat and ruffled hair lend informality and intimacy to the encounter.

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