Sir William Grant (1752-1832) Master of the Rolls
About the work
In 1832 the ‘Morning Post’ published a ‘Memoir of the late Sir W. Grant’, former Master of the Rolls (the most senior judge of England and Wales, after the Lord Chief Justice), which included the following:
‘Shortly before Sir WILLIAM’s retirement the Bar requested him to favour them by sitting to Sir THOMAS LAWRENCE for his portrait, which that great artist executed in a masterly style. This fine production may now be seen in the Rolls Court, near Chancery-lane, and exhibits a perfect likeness of Sir WILLIAM’s mild and dignified expression of countenance. A peculiarly fine print was engraved from this portrait by Mr. RICHARD GOLDING.’
About the artist
Richard Golding was born to a humble, London-based family. At c.14 he began a seven year apprenticeship with engraver J. Pass but, following a disagreement, studied briefly under James Parker. Benjamin West employed him to engrave ‘Death of Nelson’ (1805). A commission to engrave Lawrence’s painting of the Princess of Wales (1801) led to several further commissions. In 1842 the Art Union of Dublin commissioned an engraving of Maclise’s ‘A Peep into Futurity’. However, failing eyesight and mental health meant the print still was unfinished in 1852. Golding died at the age of 80. His medical attendant gained most of his property, leading to accusations of poisoning. The body was exhumed but an inquest ruled he had died of natural causes.
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.