This full-length portrait of the Reverend Robert Sherard, forth Earl of Harborough (1719-1799) shows the sitter in Peer’s robes, standing by a pedestal, upon which is his coronet. The work was formerly in the collection at Lowther Castle, Penrith, in Cumberland. This portrait is thought to have been painted towards the end of the artist’s time in Bath. Gainsborough may have painted only the features of the sitter, before passing the work on to a drapery painter to be completed.
One of the founders of the 18th-century British landscape school, Thomas Gainsborough was also the creator of the so-called ‘fancy picture’, depicting rustic figures - usually children - posed in rural settings. Born in Suffolk, he studied in London from about 1739 to 1748 under the French painter and engraver Hubert Gravelot and the British painter Francis Hayman at the St Martin’s Lane Academy. Gainsborough returned to Suffolk in 1748, where he worked as a landscape and portrait painter until 1759, before moving to Bath. There he quickly developed into a much sought-after society painter. In 1774, he moved to London where he exhibited his work in his studio. He died in London in 1788.
Rev Robert Sherard, 4th Earl of Harborough (1719-1799)
Oil on canvas
height: 223.50 cm, width: 142.00 cm
Purchased from Leggatt Bros, September 1954
Probably commissioned by the sitter; collection of Lancelot Edward Lowther, 6th Earl of Lonsdale (1867-1953); sold through Maple & Co., 'Earl of Lonsdale, Lowther Castle' sale, on 25 April 1947 (Lot 1795), bought in; collection of 6th Earl of Lonsdale; sold through Christie's, London, 'Lowther Castle' sale, on 7 March 1952 (Lot 26), for £336.0.0; from which sale purchased Leggatt Bros; from whom purchased by the Ministry of Works in 1954
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