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    Sir Thomas Lawrence (British, 1769-1830)
    Portrait of Isabella Mary Fairlie (née Elderton), bust length, looking half right, in a white dress, circa 1825
    Black and red chalk heightened with white on canvas
    26 x 21 inches (66.0 x 53.3 cm)


    The artist;
    The sitter, circa 1825-1830;
    John Fairlie (1799-1885), Cheveley Park, Cambridgeshire, widower of the sitter, 1830-presumably 1885;
    Christie's, London, 1936;
    Mary Angela Fairlie (b. 1891), purchased from the above,and gifted to her brother Gerald Roylance Chichester Fairlie (1898-1987), Dulwich, London;
    Thence by descent to the present owners, who are descendants of John Fairlie's third wife, Mary Parr Isaacson.

    Kenneth Garlick, A Catalogue of the Paintings, Drawings and Pastels of Sir Thomas Lawrence, Walpole Society, 1964, Vol. XXIX, p. 226.

    This delicate yet marvelously assured portrait drawing records the captivating likeness of Isabella Mary Elderton Fairlie (17 March 1807 - 23 January 1830), the first of three wives of John Fairlie, Esq. (1799-1885). Although details of Isabella Elderton's family background cannot be identified at this writing, those of her husband's are quite well known. Fairlie came from a prosperous Scottish family; his father was the celebrated "India merchant" William Fairlie who made his fortune trading and shipping goods throughout the far reaches of the British Empire. As Philip Mould has noted, "He began his agency in Calcutta (where a 'Fairlie Place' was first recorded in 1794). By the turn of the century his firm was involved in a wide range of businesses extending well beyond India." In the early nineteenth century Fairlie's agency house was the largest shipowner in Calcutta, and transported rice, indigo and cotton, as well as carrying opium to the China coast. His ship, the 'William Fairlie,' traded regularly between London and Canton for the East India Company between 1821 and 1832. William Fairlie was painted several times throughout his life, the most memorable of which being Robert Home's 1800 portrait of Fairlie with his wife and three eldest children (including John) painted in Calcutta, where the children were born.

    As a young man John Fairlie served as equerry to Duke of York, and then as agent to the Duke of Rutland at Cheveley Park in Cambridgeshire. He and Isabella Elderton were married on August 1, 1826 at St. Alphege Church in Greenwich, London.

    Isabella Elderton sat for this undated portrait by Sir Thomas Lawrence around 1825, a date that can be established on the basis of its having been copied in a pen and ink sketch by Henry Bone which he inscribed with that year (National Portrait Gallery, London, inv. no. NPP D17745). Isabella would have been 18 years old at the time, roughly a year predating her marriage, which suggests it may have been produced at the time of her engagement.

    Lawrence's drawing records a woman with soft brown eyes, a strong nose and chin, and a mop of curly hair with ringlets framing her forehead, and extending down her characteristically long Lawrencian neck. The drawing gives the impression of a calm, somewhat serious personality who seems, perhaps, a little older than her years. Lawrence obviously relished capturing her head of riotous curls because he lavished great attention to it, working with a variety of marks-sharp and blunt-to render the light falling on each curl as it twisted in space, and cast shadows on her skin. The specificity of all her features, and the particulars of her dress, however hastily laid in, absolutely point to the portrait having been done from life. Because there is no recorded finished painting by Lawrence of Isabella Fairlie, and this drawing is so richly worked up and on canvas, it may in fact be regarded as the underdrawing for an oil he never produced.

    Sadly, Isabella Fairlie died when she was only 22 years old, just a year following the death of her infant son, John, the couple's only child, born February 9, 1828, and died January 3, 1829. Following her death, her portrait remained in the collection of her husband even though he remarried in 1831. John Fairlie loaned the portrait to the noted engraver-publisher Frederick C. Lewis, who translated Lawrence's delicate lines into a remarkable engraving and published it as part of his folio of life-size portrait engravings entitled Lawrence's Finest Studies for his Celebrated Pictures. Isabella's portrait was advertised by name in Lewis' advertisements for the folio published in Bent's Monthly Literary Advertiser, London, in 1840 and 1841.

    Condition Report*: Unlined primed canvas; canvas is unwarped with no evidence of canvas rot or mold; possible overall discoloration to canvas due to time; stray spots of discoloration – possibly, water droplets or surface dirt, most notably in lower quarter of work; rubbing and scuffs from oval insert visible when unframed; likely original, period frame.
    *Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Some condition issues may not be noted in the condition report but are apparent in the provided photos which are considered part of the condition report. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. Heritage does not guarantee the condition of frames and shall not be liable for any damage/scratches to frames, glass/acrylic coverings, original boxes, display accessories, or art that has slipped in frames. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    December, 2019
    6th Friday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 2
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 1,720

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