The 1825 work, Portrait of Charles William Lambton (1818-31), is known as ‘The Red Boy’,
According to the gallery, in ‘The Red Boy’ Lawrence shows how he “continued to develop the deeply European sensibility which enables him to be compared to artists such as David, Delacroix, and Goya. He may have intended his setting to characterise the young boy as being on the cusp of a journey through life - although he was not to know when painting this, that his young sitter was to tragically die at the age of only 13 from tuberculosis.”
The painting is being offered from a private collection by private treaty sale via Christie’s for £9.3m. The National Gallery plans to pay in instalments and will assume legal title (fully own the painting) when the full purchase price has been paid before the end of December 2021.
The funding is made up of commitments from the American Friends of the National Gallery, plus funding from other sources such as donations including from the estate of Miss Gillian Cleaver, The Al Thani Collection Foundation and The Manny and Brigitta Davidson Charitable Foundation, while Art Fund has given a grant of £300,000.
Christine Riding, Jacob Rothschild head of the curatorial department, says: “Its presence at the National Gallery will allow us to show the intimate relationship between Lawrence, Gainsborough, Constable and many other European artists and paintings in the nation’s collection at Trafalgar Square.”
‘The Red Boy’ was created by Lawrence, one of the first trustees of the National Gallery, when he was at the height of his powers as a painter and portraitist, a year after the gallery opened to the public in 1824. Such is its status, in 1967 ‘The Red Boy’ was the first painting to be included on a British postage stamp.
The picture will undergo conservation treatment before going on display at the gallery early next year.