Sir Robert Peel Bt (1788-1850) Prime Minister
About the work
Interpretation about this artwork is under review
Robert Peel is depicted here at the age of 37, leaning on a side table upon which is a dispatch box. He wears a neck-tie, black waistcoat with watch-chain, morning coat and black trousers. The pose and dress of Peel in this portrait bear a striking resemblance to another portrait of the Prime Minister, painted several years later by Henry William Pickersgill (1782-1875) and now in the Government Art Collection.
The original oil painting by Sir Thomas Lawrence, on which this engraving is based, is now in a private collection. Peel himself was an admirer of Lawrence’s work and commissioned a number of paintings of his political colleagues from the artist, which hung at Draton Manor, his home in Staffordshire. They included portraits of Robert Banks Jenkinson, Lord Liverpool and George Canning.
About the artist
Sir Thomas Lawrence was born in Bristol; the son of a supervisor of excise. In 1773 the family moved to Wiltshire to run a coaching inn but financial difficulties led them to move again to Bath, where Lawrence first worked as a portraitist. He may have had lessons from William Hoare, before enrolling at the Royal Academy schools in 1787. Aged 20, he received a royal commission for portraits of Queen Charlotte (1789-90) and Princess Amelia (1789). At 23 he replaced Reynolds as Painter-in-Ordinary and at 25, became a Royal Academician. Despite such success, he never escaped crippling debt. In 1815 he was knighted and commissioned to paint the Waterloo Chamber series of portraits. He replaced West as President of the Royal Academy in 1820.
Samuel Cousins was a well known mezzotint engraver of portraits and decorative subjects after his contemporaries and 18th-century British artists. Born in Exeter, he was the pupil of, and assistant to, the engraver S. W. Reynolds. Cousins set up his own business in London in 1825 and would later become the first engraver to be elected a Royal Academician. He engraved plates after the foremost artists of his day including Sir Edwin Henry Landseer (1802-1873), Sir John Everett Millais (1829-1896) and Franz Xaver Winterhalter (1805-1873). His younger brother Henry Cousins (c.1809-1864) was also a mezzotint engraver.