Zoomable Image of Portrait of Letitia Wodehouse (1779-1864)

Portrait of Letitia Wodehouse (1779-1864)

Sir Thomas Lawrence PRA (1769-1830)

Portrait of Letitia Wodehouse (1779-1864)

Sir Thomas Lawrence PRA (1769-1830)

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Pastel on paper


Oval, 11 in (28 cm) high


Private Collection, UK

Following his father’s bankruptcy in 1780, the Lawrence family moved to Bath, and relied almost entirely on young Thomas's portrait commissions, such as this...

This recently discovered pastel portrait of a young Letitia Wodehouse is an early work by Sir Thomas Lawrence, undertaken sometime between 1783 and 1787 when he was working in Bath.

Thomas Lawrence was a prodigious portraitist from the age of just eight, when he began to draw his first portraits in pencil. His father, a mildly reprobate innkeeper also called Thomas, exploited his son’s self-taught talent for capturing likenesses, and much of Lawrence’s childhood was spent producing small head and shoulder portraits. Little is known about this aspect of the Young Lawrence’s work, but he was clearly talented enough to justify a substantial clientele. Guests at his father’s inn near Bath could have their portrait done by a celebrated local prodigy, hailed as a Mozart of art, and early sitters included the young William Pitt [Private Collection, formerly with Philip Mould Ltd]. Following his father’s bankruptcy in 1780, the family moved to Bath, and relied almost entirely on the portrait commissions of Thomas junior.

It was amongst the large network of Bath’s wealthy connoisseurs that Lawrence first came into contact with the Old Masters, primarily through drawings and prints. We know, for example, that he made copies in pastel of Old Masters, such as Raphael’s Transfiguration (Sothebys, London, 12th March 1987) and Carracci’s Mars (Sothebys, London, 25th February 1998). Most of Lawrence’s early pastel portraits pre-Bath are simple profile likenesses – but by the mid 1780s he was able to attempt more challenging compositions.

Letitia Wodehouse was born in 1779 and was the daughter of Rev. Philip Wodehouse (b.1745) and his wife Apollonia, daughter and co-heir of John Nourse of Woodeaton, Oxfordshire. On the 9th June 1804 Letitia married George Boulton Mainwaring (b.c.1773), the son of a wealthy banker and treasurer of Middlesex, and although details on Letitia’s life are scarce, we can presume, judging by her husband’s well-recorded exploits, that it was at times challenging. Throughout his life Mainwaring rarely avoided controversy and in 1814, when the family bank failed, a debt to the county of Middlesex of £9,177 was exposed, and he was forced to rely on Letitia’s brother Edmund Wodehouse for assistance. The situation escalated in 1821 when an investigation into the misappropriation of county funds exposed a further debt of £18,000, prompting his resignation soon after. It is thought Mainwaring and Letitia then moved to the Continent, and in 1840 their daughter was married at the British embassy in Berne.

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