The Irish actress Elizabeth Farren made her London debut in 1777 as Kate Hardcastle in Oliver Goldsmith's She Stoops to Conquer. She was at the height of her career when this canvas was shown at the Royal Academy in 1790. Seven years later, she married the twelfth earl of Derby. This beautiful portrait helped to secure for Lawrence the role of successor to the elderly Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723–1792).
Elizabeth Farren's father, George Farran, trained as a surgeon-apothecary in Ireland, but left for England and a career in the theater. He married Margaret Wright, daughter of a Liverpool brewer, and when he died in 1770 left her with three young daughters. Elizabeth's birth date is uncertain (Baetjer 2009). She made a name for herself at the Theatre Royal in Liverpool and moved on to London in 1777, where from the first she was billed as Elizabeth Farren, rather than Farran, and was referred to as Eliza. She became a celebrated comic actress, performing on the London stage for the next twenty years. It cannot have been long before she met Edward Smith Stanley, twelfth Earl of Derby, whose wife had left him for the Duke of Dorset. (The Museum owns a portrait of her by Romney [49.7.57] and another of her with her husband and son by Angelika Kauffmann [59.189.2].) Miss Farren became the earl’s companion and joined polite society. The earl’s wife died on March 14, 1797 (they had never divorced), and on May 1 he and Elizabeth Farren married. The new countess gave birth to four children in the next four years. Three of them died young; the fourth, Mary Margaret, married the second Earl of Wilton.
This portrait was probably painted in the late winter and early spring of 1790 and was shown at the Royal Academy that year to great acclaim (Lawrence 1790) and some controversy. Lawrence had insulted Miss Farren by titling the work "Portrait of an Actress" rather than "Portrait of a Lady." The error may simply have been one of inexperience or oversight on the part of the twenty-one-year-old artist. There was also some dispute over the price of the work. The earl must always have intended to own the picture, but eventually had to pay one hundred guineas for it rather than the sixty guineas originally asked. Finally, Miss Farren wrote Lawrence to request that he alter her figure to make it appear a little straighter and more substantial. X-radiography (see Additional Images, fig. 1) and infrared reflectography show no evidence that Lawrence complied with this request. The application of the paint throughout is direct, with little reworking (the toe of the sitter’s black shoe was made smaller), though the artist may at first have conceived of including an architectural element of some kind in the background.
The picture has enjoyed enduring popularity, and was engraved by Bartolozzi in 1792 (The Met, 50.583.9).
[2010; adapted from Baetjer 2009]
Edward Smith Stanley, 12th Earl of Derby, Knowsley Hall, Lancashire (until d. 1834); his son-in-law, Thomas Egerton, 2nd Earl of Wilton (1834–d. 1882); his son, Arthur Edward Holland Grey Egerton, 3rd Earl of Wilton (1882–d. 1885); his brother, Seymour John Grey Egerton, 4th Earl of Wilton (1885–at least 1894; sold to Neumann); Ludwig Neumann, Manchester (in 1904); [Asher Wertheimer, London, until 1906; sold to Agnew]; [Agnew, London, 1906; sold for $200,000 to Morgan]; J. Pierpont Morgan, London and New York (1906–d. 1913; his estate, 1913–17); his son, J. P. Morgan, New York (1917–35; sold for $250,000 to Knoedler); [Knoedler, New York, 1935; sold to Harkness]; Edward S. Harkness, New York (1935–d. 1940; life interest to his widow, Mary Stillman Harkness, New York, 1940–d. 1950)
London. Royal Academy. 1790, no. 171 (as "Portrait of an actress").
Manchester. Art Treasures Palace. "Art Treasures of the United Kingdom," May 5–October 17, 1857, no. 183 (as "Miss Farren, Countess of Derby," lent by the Earl of Wilton).
London. South Kensington Museum. "Second Special Exhibition of National Portraits," May 1, 1867, no. 858 (lent by the Earl of Wilton).
Leeds City Museum. "National Exhibition of Works of Art," 1868, no. 1113 (lent by the Earl of Wilton).
London. Grafton Galleries. "Fair Women," Summer 1894, no. 75 (lent by the Earl of Wilton).
London. Royal Academy of Arts. "Winter Exhibition," January 4–March 12, 1904, no. 106 (lent by L. Neumann).
Berlin. Königliche Akademie der Künste. "Aelterer Englischer Kunst," January 26–February 23, 1908, no. 72 (lent by J. Pierpont Morgan, London).
Copenhagen. Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek. "Ældre Engelsk Kunst," 1908, no. 17 (lent by J. Pierpont Morgan, London).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Collection of Paintings lent by J. Pierpont Morgan," 1913, unnumbered cat.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Loan Exhibition of the J. Pierpont Morgan Collection," February 17, 1914–May 28, 1916, unnumbered cat. (pp. 104–5).
New York. Century Club. "Masters of Portraiture," March 6–April 3, 1938, no. 5 (lent by Edward S. Harkness).
New York. World's Fair. "Masterpieces of Art: European Paintings and Sculpture from 1300–1800," May–October 1939, no. 208 (lent by Edward S. Harkness, New York).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Harkness Collection," October 12, 1951–March 19, 1952, no catalogue.
Hempstead, N. Y. Hofstra College. "Metropolitan Museum Masterpieces," June 26–September 1, 1952, no. 31.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Art Treasures of the Metropolitan," November 7, 1952–September 7, 1953, no. 137.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Masterpieces of Fifty Centuries," November 15, 1970–February 15, 1971, no. 339.
London. National Portrait Gallery. "Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1769–1830," November 9, 1979–March 16, 1980, no. 4.
Madrid. Museo del Prado. "Pintura Británica: de Hogarth a Turner," October 18, 1988–January 8, 1989, no. 41.
New Haven. Yale Center for British Art. "Sir Thomas Lawrence: Portraits of an Age, 1790–1830," February 27–April 25, 1993, no. 18.
Fort Worth, Tex. Kimbell Art Museum. "Sir Thomas Lawrence: Portraits of an Age, 1790–1830," May 15–July 11, 1993, no. 18.
Richmond. Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. "Sir Thomas Lawrence: Portraits of an Age, 1790–1830," July 31–September 26, 1993, no. 18.
New Haven. Yale Center for British Art. "Great British Paintings from American Collections: Holbein to Hockney," September 27–December 30, 2001, no. 37.
San Marino, Calif. Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. "Great British Paintings from American Collections: Holbein to Hockney," February 3–May 5, 2002, no. 37.
London. National Portrait Gallery. "Thomas Lawrence: Regency Power and Brilliance," October 21, 2010–January 23, 2011, no. 3.
New Haven. Yale Center for British Art. "Thomas Lawrence: Regency Power and Brilliance," February 24–June 5, 2011, no. 3.
Thomas Lawrence Sr. Letter to the Reverend Henry Kent. April 1790 [published in Edward Kite, "Some New Lawrence Letters," Connoisseur 56 (April 1920), p. 243], reports that on the following Wednesday their Majesties will see, among others, the portrait of "Miss Farren, for which last [Thomas Lawrence] is to receive 100 guineas".
Thomas Lawrence Sr. Letter to the Reverend Henry Kent. April 30, 1790 [published in Edward Kite, "Some New Lawrence Letters," Connoisseur 56 (April 1920), p. 244], quotes extracts from various papers of April 29:
The Diary, and The Public Advertiser of April 30 ("Mr. Lawrence, young as he is, treads close already on the Robe of the most eminent of the profession. . . . such a portrait as Miss Farren's, might create envy in the mind of the first artist that ever existed. We have seen a great variety of pictures of Miss Farren, but we never saw before her mind and [character] upon canvas. It is completely Elizabeth Farren, arch, careless, spirited, elegant, and engaging.");
The Morning Herald (The portrait "possesses great merit, and is extremely characteristic. The background is very fine.");
The Morning Chronicle (The portrait "is an excellent production. [Lawrence] has given all the richness and fascination of the original with exquisite effect.");
The Gazetteer ("Mr. Lawrence hath this year fulfilled all the promises which he gave a year ago. . . . Miss Farren is one of the most delightful portraits we ever saw.");
The World (The "best portraits in oils" include that of Miss Farren. "Lawrence deserves the greatest encomiums. . . . ");
London Evening ("[Lawrence's] portrait of Miss Farren yields to none in the room.");
The Times of April 30 ("Those of the Queen, by Lawrence . . . and . . . of Miss Farren, likewise by Lawrence, appear to be the best.").
"Royal Academy." English Chronicle, and Universal Evening Post (April 29–May 1, 1790), no page number, states that "Miss Farren, by [Lawrence], is hung up as a companion to the Mrs. Billington of Sir Joshua Reynods, and in spirit, colouring, and expression, is far superior".
St. James's Chronicle; or, British Evening-Post (May 1–4, 1790), calls it a "most spirited resemblance," adding that "The figure is easy and natural, the affectation of the original is well disguised. The sattin [sic] cloak and fur are admirably painted: And the whole approaches very nearly to the best works of the President [Reynolds].".
[unidentified newspaper] (1790) [see Ref. Whitley 1928, p. 130], finds the picture "oddly described [as] 'Portrait of an Actress.' Had the charming subject been of the 'Strolling Tribe' she could not have been more disgracefully distinguished. Sir Joshua has treated Mrs. Billington with more gallantry, and very properly styles his picture 'Portrait of a "Celebrated" Singer.'".
Sir Thomas Lawrence. Letter to Elizabeth Farren. 1790 [published in Ref. Layard 1906, pp. 12–13], regrets that in the exhibition the picture is titled Portrait of an Actress when he had called it Portrait of a Lady, "and this he did as well from its being Miss Farren in Private as from the wish he had that it should be known to be her from the likeness alone, unaided by professional character".
"Royal Academy." The Diary; or Woodfall's Register (April 29, 1790), no page number [reprinted in the "Public Advertiser," April 30, 1790], states that "we have seen a great variety of pictures of Miss Farren, but we never before saw her mind and character upon canvas. It is completely Elizabeth Farren; arch, careless, spirited, elegant, and engaging".
Public Advertiser (May 11, 1790), no page number, calls it "truly excellent, and in some respects . . . superior to that of Mrs. Billington".
Elizabeth Farren. Letter to Thomas Lawrence. 1792 [published in Ref. Layard 1906, p. 14], responds with astonishment to the price, as Lawrence "must have forgot that the last time I had the honour of sitting to you, you told me the price would be 'sixty guineas,' and I then informed you that Lord Derby meant to be the purchaser"; asks him not to sell it without her consent.
Elizabeth Farren. Letter to Thomas Lawrence. 1792 [published in Ref. Layard 1906, pp. 14–15], reports that "they tease me to death about this picture. . . . One says it is so thin in the figure, that you might blow it away—another that it looks broke off in the middle: in short, you must make it a little 'fatter,' at all events, diminish the 'bend' . . . for the owner of it is quite distressed about it at present".
D. E. Williams. The Life and Correspondence of Sir Thomas Lawrence, Kt. London, 1831, vol. 1, pp. 124–25, 128, reports that while it was well received, the "muff and furred cloak . . . were deemed . . . inconsistent with uncovered arms, and other circumstances of the painting"; notes that comparisons between it and Reynolds's Mrs. Billington as St. Cecilia were "not unfavorable".
Allan Cunningham. The Lives of the Most Eminent British Painters and Sculptors. Vol. 5, New York, 1868, pp. 147–48.
E. Barrington Nash. "Miss Farren: Painted by Lawrence, Engraved by Bartolozzi." Magazine of Art 9 (1886), p. 143, ill. between pp. 142 and 143, discusses the states of the engraving, which he concludes is by Bartolozzi despite the presence of Knight's name on the trial proof.
Charlotte Louise Henrietta Papendiek. Court and Private Life in the Time of Queen Charlotte. London, 1887, vol. 2, pp. 198–99.
Ronald Gower. Romney and Lawrence. London, 1892, pp. 30–31, 95.
Julian Marshall. A Catalogue of Engraved National Portraits in the National Art Library. London, 1895, p. 175.
Ronald Sutherland Gower. Sir Thomas Lawrence. London, 1900, pp. 7–8, 127, ill. opp. p. 8 (Bartolozzi engraving).
Armand Dayot. Famous Beauties in Art. Boston, 1901, pp. 247–49, ill.
John van Dyke and Timothy Cole. Old English Masters Engraved by Timothy Cole. New York, 1902, pp. 166, 169–70, ill.
Louise M. Richter. "The Old English and Italian Masters at Burlington House." Connoisseur 8 (March 1904), p. 169, ill. p. 171.
Beatrice Erskine. Beautiful Women in History and Art. London, 1905, ill. (one in color) between pp. 210 and 211 (engravings after Bertolozzi).
George Somes Layard, ed. Sir Thomas Lawrence's Letter-Bag. New York, 1906, pp. 11–15.
W[illiam]. Roberts inPictures in the Collection of J. Pierpont Morgan at Princes Gate & Dover House, London. Vol. 1, English School. London, 1907, unpaginated.
R. S. Clouston. Sir Thomas Lawrence. London, , p. x, ill.
W[illiam]. Roberts. "Mr. J. Pierpont Morgan's Pictures: The Early English School, III." Connoisseur 17 (February 1907), pp. 71–73, ill., observes that it was hung as a pendant to Sir Joshua Reynolds's portrait of Mrs. Billington (Beaverbrook Art Gallery, Fredericton, Canada).
W[illiam]. Roberts inPictures in the Collection of J. Pierpont Morgan at Princes Gate & Dover House, London. Vol. 3, Modern Schools. London, 1907, ill. (color, frontispiece).
Masters in Art: Lawrence 8 (January 1907), pp. 35–36, pl. I.
Walter Armstrong. Art in Great Britain and Ireland. London, 1909, p. 205, fig. 370 (print) [American ed., New York, 1921].
Philip L. Hale. Great Portraits: Women. Boston, 1909, unnumbered pl.
Freeman O'Donoghue. Catalogue of Engraved British Portraits Preserved in the Department of Prints and Drawings in the British Museum. Vol. 2, London, 1910, p. 39.
M. H. Spielmann. British Portrait Painting to the Opening of the Nineteenth Century. London, 1910, vol. 2, pp. 62, 67–68, pl. 108.
W. J. Lawrence. "The Portraits of Elizabeth Farren, Countess of Derby." Connoisseur 29 (February 1911), pp. 98–100.
B[ryson]. B[urroughs]. "A Loan Exhibition of Mr. Morgan's Paintings." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 8 (January 1913), p. 13, ill. on cover [reprinted as pamphlet, "Collection of Paintings Lent by J. Pierpont Morgan," at least 7 eds., p. 12, ill. on cover].
Walter Armstrong. Lawrence. New York, 1913, pp. 29–32, 131, pl. XVI, proposes that the conception may have been suggested by Reynolds's Lady Crosbie.
Algernon Graves inSixty Drawings by Sir Thomas Lawrence, P.R.A. Exh. cat., Edward Gallery. London, 1913, p. 8.
"Paintings in the Morgan Collection." Art and Progress 4 (July 1913), ill. p. 1035.
Guide to the Loan Exhibition of the J. Pierpont Morgan Collection. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1914, pp. 104–5.
William T. Whitley. "An Eighteenth-Century Art Chronicler: Sir Henry Bate Dudley, Bart." Walpole Society 13 (1924–25), p. 48, mentions a Gainsborough drawing of a lady walking in the Mall (British Museum) which, according to a label on the frame, since lost, Lawrence studied when painting Elizabeth Farren.
William T. Whitley. Artists and Their Friends in England, 1700–1799. London, 1928, vol. 2, pp. 129–31, quotes Reynolds: "In you, Sir, the world will expect to see accomplished what I have failed to achieve.".
Esther Singleton. Old World Masters in New World Collections. New York, 1929, pp. 420–22, ill.
C. H. Collins Baker. British Painting. London, 1933, p. 281, as Nellie Farren.
T. L[eman]. H[are]. "Masterpieces from the Morgan Collection Sold." Apollo 21 (March 1935), p. 167, ill.
"Rundschau: Amerika, New York." Pantheon 15 (May 1935), p. 150, ill. p. 147.
Millia Davenport. The Book of Costume. New York, 1948, vol. 2, p. 788, no. 2222, ill.
H[enry]. L[a]. F[arge]. "In the Harkness Manner." Art News 50 (October 1951), p. 41, ill. (overall and color detail).
"Illustrations of Outstanding Harkness Gifts." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 10 (October 1951), ill. p. 67.
Elizabeth E. Gardner. "Portrait of an Actress." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 9 (April 1951), pp. 197–200, ill. (overall and details), color detail on cover, suggests that comparison with Bartolozzi's print shows that several inches have been trimmed at the lower edge of the painting.
"Met Reviews Its Harkness Benefactions." Art Digest 26 (October 1, 1951), ill. p. 13.
Paintings by Sir Thomas Lawrence, P.R.A. Exh. cat., Thos. Agnew & Sons. London, 1951, p. 33.
Douglas Goldring. Regency Portrait Painter: The Life of Sir Thomas Lawrence, P.R.A. London, 1951, pp. 81–85, ill. opp. p. 48, points out that when the Royal Academy catalogue was reprinted, it was titled Portrait of a Celebrated Actress.
Kenneth Romney Towndrow. "The Craft and Appreciation of Stipple and Crayon Engraving in England." Apollo 57 (February 1953), pp. 45–47, figs. I, III (engraving, overall and detail).
Kenneth Garlick. Sir Thomas Lawrence. London, 1954, pp. 3–4, 37, 67, 88, pl. 3, mentions that its vivacity "augured extraordinary powers of development".
Theodore Rousseau Jr. "A Guide to the Picture Galleries." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 12, part 2 (January 1954), ill. p. 43.
David Piper. The English Face. London, 1957, p. 230 [ed. 1992, p. 176, colorpl. 182].
A. Hyatt Mayor. "The Gifts that Made the Museum." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 16 (November 1957), p. 106.
Great Paintings from The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1959, unpaginated, no. 48, ill. (color).
Kenneth Garlick, ed. Sir Thomas Lawrence, Regency Painter. Exh. cat., Worcester Art Museum. Worcester, Mass., 1960, pp. 10–11.
Kenneth Garlick. "A Catalogue of the Paintings, Drawings, and Pastels of Sir Thomas Lawrence." Walpole Society 39 (1964), p. 79.
Geoffrey Agnew. Agnew's, 1817–1967. London, 1967, unpaginated, ill.
"Collectors' Questions: Her Noblest Role." Country Life 146 (August 7, 1969), p. 333.
David Piper, ed. The Genius of British Painting. London, 1975, ill. p. 241.
Edward Morris and Martin Hopkinson. Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool: Foreign Catalogue. [Liverpool], 1977, text vol., p. 354.
Geraldine Norman. Nineteenth-Century Painters and Painting: A Dictionary. Berkeley, 1977, p. 129, ill.
Michael Levey. Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1769–1830. Exh. cat., National Portrait Gallery. 1979, pp. 11, 15–16, 27, no. 4, ill. p. 27 and colorpl. I.
Aileen Ribeiro. "Furs in Fashion: The Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries." Connoisseur 202 (December 1979), p. 228, ill., describes the sitter's "sumptuous silk coat edged with fox".
Suzanne Farran. "Portrait of a Great Lady." Country Life (November 1, 1979), p. 1532.
Howard Hibbard. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1980, pp. 378, 384, fig. 680 (color).
Kenneth Garlick. "The Glamour of Lawrence." Apollo 111 (January 1980), pp. 66–67, ill.
Adeline R. Tintner. "Henry James's 'The Outcry' and the Art Drain of 1908–9." Apollo 113 (February 1981), p. 112.
John Hayes and Lindsay Stainton. Gainsborough Drawings. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art. Washington, 1983, p. 180, ill.
Aileen Ribeiro. The Dress Worn At Masquerades in England, 1730 to 1790, and Its Relation to Fancy Dress in Portraiture. PhD diss., Courtauld Institute of Art, London. New York, 1984, pl. 112.
Kenneth Garlick. Sir Thomas Lawrence: A Complete Catalogue of the Oil Paintings. Oxford, 1989, pp. 16, 24, 187–88, no. 294a, colorpl. 5.
John Wilson. "The Romantics, 1790–1830." The British Portrait, 1660–1960. Woodbridge, England, 1991, pp. 257, 261, 264, colorpl. 44, finds it difficult to believe that Miss Farren is nine years older than Mrs. Billington.
John Human Wilson. "The Life and Work of John Hoppner (1758–1810)." PhD diss., Courtauld Institute of Art, London, 1992, vol. 1, pp. 63, 158.
J. G. Links. Letter to Katharine Baetjer. September 13, 1993, states that the fur is "quite unidentifiable".
Kenneth Garlick. Sir Thomas Lawrence: Portraits of an Age, 1790–1830. Exh. cat., Yale Center for British Art, New Haven. Alexandria, Va., 1993, pp. 10, 13, 54–55, no. 18, ill. (color).
Vivien Raynor. "British Portraitist Makes the Most of the Romantic Moment." New York Times (March 21, 1993), p. 24, ill.
Aileen Ribeiro. The Art of Dress: Fashion in England and France 1750 to 1820. New Haven, 1995, pp. 78, 80, pl. 84.
Leonée Ormond inThe Dictionary of Art. Ed. Jane Turner. Vol. 18, New York, 1996, pp. 891, 894, fig. 2.
Jean Strouse. Morgan: American Financier. New York, 1999, pp. 7, 504, states that Morgan bought it from Agnew's for $200,000.
Katharine Baetjer. "British Portraits in The Metropolitan Museum of Art." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 57 (Summer 1999), pp. 4, 64–68, ill. (color), details on front and back covers (color).
Bettina Gockel. Kunst und Politik der Farbe: Gainsboroughs Portraitmalerei. Berlin, 1999, p. 87, fig. 84 (in reverse).
Jean Strouse. "J. Pierpont Morgan, Financier and Collector." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 57 (Winter 2000), p. 32–33, fig. 36 (color).
Ruth Pullin inEuropean Masterpieces: Six Centuries of Paintings from the National Gallery of Victoria, Australia. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Victoria. Melbourne, 2000, p. 104.
Robyn Asleson inBritish Paintings at the Huntington. [San Marino, Calif.], 2001, p. 5.
Ian McIntyre. Joshua Reynolds: The Life and Times of the First President of the Royal Academy. London, 2003, p. 506.
Michael Levey. Sir Thomas Lawrence. New Haven, 2005, pp. 8–9, 14, 90, 92–93, 291, 306–7, 314, 316, 321 n. 21, p. 325 n. 65, ill. p. vi (color detail), colorpls. 6, 48, 170 (overall and details), suggests that the pose was influenced by a late drawing by Gainsborough of "A Lady Walking to the Right, with Head Turned" (British Museum, London).
Elizabeth A. Pergam. "From Manchester to Manhattan: The Transatlantic Art Trade After 1857." Bulletin of the John Rylands Library 87, no. 2 (2005), pp. 68–69, 87, 88.
Gill Perry. Spectacular Flirtations: Viewing the Actress in British Art and Theatre 1768–1820. New Haven, 2007, pp. 72, 185, ill. pp. 168, 190 (color details), fig. 133 (color).
Katharine Baetjer. British Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1575–1875. New York, 2009, pp. 124, 142, 210–15, no. 105, ill. (color), fig. 138 (x-radiograph detail), frontispiece (color detail).
A. Cassandra Albinson inThomas Lawrence: Regency Power & Brilliance. Ed. A. Cassandra Albinson et al. Exh. cat., National Portrait Gallery, London. New Haven, 2010, pp. xiv, 34–35, 105, fig. 34 (color detail).
Lucy Peltz inThomas Lawrence: Regency Power & Brilliance. Ed. A. Cassandra Albinson et al. Exh. cat., National Portrait Gallery, London. New Haven, 2010, pp. 88, 98–101, 136, no. 3, ill. (color), cat. 3.2 (color detail), mentions a "Study of a Lady" by Gainsborough (British Museum, London) with an inscription on the back noting that Lawrence had studied it for several days "when Lord Derby employed him to paint Miss Farren".
Malcolm Warner. "Books: British Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art." Burlington Magazine 153 (April 2011), p. 257, reviews Ref. Baetjer 2009.
Mark Hallett. Reynolds: Portraiture in Action. New Haven, 2014, pp. 437–38, 466 nn. 53–54, fig. 427 (color), discusses it in connection with Reynolds's portrait of Mrs. Billington, shown with it at the Royal Academy exhibition of 1790.
The portrait of Elizabeth Farren was exhibited as "Portrait of an Actress" to both acclaim and some criticism at the 1790 Royal Academy show, to which Lawrence also sent his full-length portrait of Queen Charlotte. That of Miss Farren, retitled "Portrait of a Celebrated Actress" in the second edition of the catalogue, was compared by the critics to Sir Joshua Reynolds's full-length "Portrait of a Celebrated Singer", representing Mrs. Billington as Saint Cecilia (Beaverbrook Art Gallery, Fredericton, New Brunswick). Lawrence's Elizabeth Farren was the subject of a widely distributed stipple engraving by Francesco Bartolozzi with Charles Knight, published in 1791/92 and reissued as the countess of Derby in 1797 and 1803. A sketch presumed to be by Lawrence shows Miss Farren's head facing to right (Garlick 1989, no. 294b, "traditionally and fairly convincingly identified . . . as a preliminary study") and there is a drawing of her in the same costume but a different pose (Garlick 1993).