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Edward Law, 1st Earl of Ellenborough

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Edward Law, 1st Earl of Ellenborough

by Frederick Richard Say
oil on canvas, circa 1845
56 in. x 44 in. (1422 mm x 1118 mm)
Given by H.G. Boston, 1918
Primary Collection
NPG 1805

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Ellenborough wears the Star and Ribbon of the Bath, awarded him in 1844. Like Say's portraits of Derby and Newcastle, this was painted for Sir Robert Peel's 'Statemen's Gallery'. It retains its original frame.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Smartify image discovery app
  • Hulme, Graham; Buchanan, Brian; Powell, Kenneth, The National Portrait Gallery: An Architectural History, 2000, p. 17
  • Ormond, Richard, Early Victorian Portraits, 1973, p. 158
  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 204
  • Simon, Jacob, The Art of the Picture Frame: Artists, Patrons and the Framing of Portraits in Britain, 1997 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 8 November 1996 - 9 February 1997), p. 116, 169 Read entry

    Gilt compo on pine, mitred and pinned with corner blocks, the flat fillets and back scoop water gilt, the ogee sides with running arabesque foliage on a cross-hatched ground, large formalised shell corners and a plain flat as sight edge, with original lettering, THE EARL OF ELLENBOROUGH, BY SAY. 9 inches wide.

    To house his remarkable collection of portraits of his political contemporaries, the Tory Prime Minister, Sir Robert Peel, added a new gallery to his home, Drayton Manor in Staffordshire, to the design of Sydney Smirke. Two years later in 1847 the Gentleman's Magazine called the fifty portraits in the gallery, 'the matchless collection of portraits of eminent statesmen and men of celebrity in literature and the arts and sciences'.1

    Peel's portrait collection - he was also a collector of old masters - was founded in the 1820s while he was serving in Lord Liverpool's administration as Home Secretary. He commissioned Sir Thomas Lawrence to paint full-lengths of both Liverpool and his Foreign Secretary, George Canning (both National Portrait Gallery; see NPG 1832).

    Peel's taste both in portraits and in frames seems to have settled on the Lawrence style. He used 'Sir Thos Lawrence's pattern' for framing a picture by Sir Joshua Reynolds in 1828.2 When he resumed his portrait collection in the 1840s, he wrote of continuing 'the series of Eminent Men of my own time commenced by Sir Thomas Lawrence', and specifically requested John Lucas in 1843 to give Gladstone's portrait 'such a background as is in Sir Thomas Lawrence's portrait of Lord Liverpool'.3

    Peel's other portrait painter of the 1840s was F. R. Say, who painted six portraits for him including those in the National Portrait Gallery of Lord Ellenborough, Lord Derby and the Duke of Newcastle. Peel arranged his own framing, probably through his adviser John Seguier, ordering frames for portraits by Say from the framemaker Robert Thick on 21 August 1845. 11 December 1846 and 2 August 1848. This portrait of the First Lord of the Admiralty, Lord Ellenborough, was probably part of the 1846 order.4 Peel adopted a uniform, straight-sided frame in the Lawrence manner for his portraits by both Say and Lucas (indeed 'Lawrence pattern frames' was the term used when the National Portrait Gallery's framemaker charged for undertaking repairs in 1919). Most of the frames were inscribed in capitals with the sitter's and artist's name along the bottom flat.

    1 Gentleman's Magazine, vol.XXVII, 1847, p 289.

    2 The picture was framed by John Smith; see Smith Day Book, vol.2, p 54 (Victoria and Albert Museum Library, 86.CC.2). Peel was also using Lawrence's framemaker, George Morant, for framing at this time, see Surrey Record Office, Goulbum Papers, letter from Geo. Morant & Son to Peel, 18 November 1828.

    3 British Library, Peel papers, Add. MS. 40,536, ff.138-40.

    4 Robert Thick, order ledger. The ledger belongs to the Duke of Wellington who kindly made it available for study.

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Events of 1845back to top

Current affairs

Cardinal Newman converts to Roman Catholicism. A leader of the Oxford movement , growing in influence since the 1820s, Newman had raised doubts about the authority of the Anglican church.
Ralph Etwall, MP for Andover, demands an inquiry into the administration of the Andover workhouse, which leads to the abolition of the Poor Law Commission, and resolution of Parliament to improve workhouse conditions.

Art and science

The American poet, short story writer, critic and leader of the American Romantic movement, Edgar Allan Poe, publishes his narrative poem 'The Raven'. The poem is a supernatural tale of a mysterious talking raven's visit to a distraught lover, who descends into madness, and explores themes of self-torture and obsession.
The reconstruction of Trafalgar Square, by architects John Nash and Sir Charles Barry, is completed.


Sir John Franklin's expedition in search of the North-West passage, the sea route linking the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Franklin took two ships, the Erebus and the Terror, and a crew of 129 men made up Royal Navy officers. The crew never returned. Search parties sent out years later discovered the ships had got stuck in frozen waters, and that all the men had died.

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