The famous portrait of Charles William Lambton by Sir Thomas Lawrence, known as red boy, will soon join the collection of the National Gallery in London. The institution has pledged to purchase the work from a private collection for £ 9.3million (approximately $ 12.7million).
In a statement, the National Gallery said the purchase is a unique opportunity “to acquire a painting of exceptional importance by one of the best European portrait painters of the early 19th century, which is of exceptional heritage significance. British National “.
The painting, a depiction of the thoughtful boy in a crimson velvet costume, was first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1825. In 1967, red boy became the first painting to appear on a British postage stamp, and it has since become a staple on British caramel and shortbread tins.
Now considered a national icon, public opinion was initially divided over the coin when it debuted. English Romantic poet William Wordsworth remarked after seeing it: “Lawrence’s portrait of young Lambton is a miserable and histrionic thing; the taste of the public must be stale indeed, if that is admired. A writer for the Times of London, however, praised his “youthful sparkling intelligence”.
In 1833, at the height of his popularity and maturity as an artist, prominent British portrait painter Thomas Lawrence was commissioned to create the painting by the subject’s father, John George Lambton. His scale and imagery are unusual for a portrait of a young child in the 19th century: Charles sits outside at night, on a rocky promontory overlooking the sea. He is posed informally, with one arm folded and a wandering gaze.
Gabriele Finaldi, director of the National Gallery, described the portrait as “dazzling” and “a feat of technical genius and at the same time a moving portrayal of a young boy becoming aware of himself”.
The permanent collection of the institution is rich in paintings of children, such as Murillo, Hogarth, Liotard, Gainsborough and Vigée Le Brun. Finalid added: “I have no doubts that when acquired, it will quickly become a much admired painting for all of our visitors.”