The Honorable Caroline Upton

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Caroline Upton’s title, “the Honorable,” identifies her as the daughter of a baron. Her dress, hairstyle, and gold armband are classical in style, and the painting's oval profile format—unusual in Lawrence's work—recalls an antique cameo or medal. The formality of the portrait is enlivened by Lawrence's virtuoso brushwork, accentuating the young woman’s fresh complexion, and her slightly parted lips.

In Sir Thomas Lawrence’s portrait of the Honorable Caroline Upton, the sitter’s physical beauty is matched by the artist’s remarkable technical ability. The young woman is shown in profile, a format that is very unusual in Lawrence’s work. Her hair style, her high-waisted dress, and the painting’s oval shape suggest the crispness of a cameo. The paint is fluid and creamy, applied with virtuoso touches of the artist’s brush.

The sitter’s title, “the Honorable,” distinguishes her as the daughter of a baron; her parents were Clotworthy Upton, 1st Baron Templetown, and his wife, Elizabeth, an artist who supplied designs to Josiah Wedgewood, the famous pottery manufacturer. This portrait and that of Caroline’s equally beautiful sister, Sophia, were painted sometime around the year 1800. Lawrence probably met the Upton family at Norbury Park, the country house of William Lock, a patron and collector of the artist’s work. Lawrence may have been enamored with one, or possibly both, of the celebrated beauties.

Born in Bristol and raised in Bath, Lawrence moved to London in 1787 where, within three years, he received his first royal commission. Sir Joshua Reynolds, the first president of England’s Royal Academy, declared that Lawrence would surpass him as a painter of grandiose historical and mythological subjects. Instead, Lawrence followed Reynolds’s example by becoming the period’s most successful portraitist and eventually also president of the Royal Academy. Although money was an ever-present problem for Lawrence, he was never without a stream of important commissions. He became the favorite painter of King George IV, for whom he undertook a series of portraits of heroes from the Allied forces of the Napoleonic Wars, including a famous painting of the Duke of Wellington.

Sir Thomas Lawrence

English, 1769–1830

The Honorable Caroline Upton

c. 1800

Oil on canvas

27 1/2 x 22 9/16 in. (69.9 x 57.3 cm) Frame: 36 3/4 × 31 13/16 × 3 3/4 in. (93.3 × 80.8 × 9.5 cm)


Acquired by Sterling and Francine Clark, 1944

1955.958


ON VIEW