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Dressed in high Regency fashion, scientist and inventor Sir Humphry Davy is depicted with Thomas Lawrence’s characteristic verve. This portrait by Lawrence’s studio relates to a three-quarter-length which was commissioned by Davy's wife, Lady Jane Davy (née Kerr), and later presented to the Royal Society, in whose collection it remains today. Davy was president of the Royal Society for seven years from 1820, but he began his career as somewhat of a polymath, turning his hand to poetry and science. He is now best known for his invention of the miner’s safety lamp, which ensured the safety of miners in treacherous working conditions. He is also regarded as a chemist, on account of his discovery of several elements throughout his lifetime, including sodium and potassium. In 1803 Davy was admitted a fellow of the Royal Society and later elected secretary of the Royal Society in 1807. In 1812, he was knighted by the Prince Regent and delivered a farewell lecture...

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Dressed in high Regency fashion, scientist and inventor Sir Humphry Davy is depicted with Thomas Lawrence’s characteristic verve. This portrait by Lawrence’s studio relates to a three-quarter-length which was commissioned by Davy's wife, Lady Jane Davy (née Kerr), and later presented to the Royal Society, in whose collection it remains today. Davy was president of the Royal Society for seven years from 1820, but he began his career as somewhat of a polymath, turning his hand to poetry and science. He is now best known for his invention of the miner’s safety lamp, which ensured the safety of miners in treacherous working conditions. He is also regarded as a chemist, on account of his discovery of several elements throughout his lifetime, including sodium and potassium. In 1803 Davy was admitted a fellow of the Royal Society and later elected secretary of the Royal Society in 1807. In 1812, he was knighted by the Prince Regent and delivered a farewell lecture to members of the Royal Institution. After a brief scientific research sojourn, with the permission of Napoleon, he travelled through France, meeting prominent scientists of the day. On his return, he studied for the Society for Preventing Accidents in Coal Mines, which led to his renowned invention of the miner’s safety lamp. In 1820 Davy was appointed as president of the Royal Society, which he held for seven years. Davy dons a high white stock and white waistcoat with a black jacket and his piercing gaze is highlighted through deft flecks of light, which reflect on the top of the sitter’s eyes. The prestige of Lawrence and his studio, in tandem with the celebrity of Davy himself, would have increased the demand for this duplicated image. Another full-length studio version of this portrait, which is governed by the same vigorous brushwork as the present work, is in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery, London. A letter from Davy to Lawrence, written in June 1815, evidences the young scientist’s delight in Lawrence’s original portrait. In the letter, Davy stated that he was grateful for the opportunity to see Lawrence's pictures and invited the artist to dinner.[1] The face mask of this outstanding image was used as a model for the statue by W & T Wills in Market Place, Penzance. [1] H. Davy, Letter to Sir Thomas Lawrence, 10 June 1815. The Royal Academy archive collection, LAW/2/108.

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500 Years of British Art