Sir Thomas Lawrence
Portrait of the Rt. Hon. Sylvester Douglas, Later Baron Glenbervie of Kincardine, c. 1792-93
Sylvester Douglas, 1st Baron Glenbervie (1743 – 1823), the sitter; and by descent to his son
The Hon. Frederick Sylvester North Douglas (1791 – 1819); thence by descent in the family of the sitter at Weston Hall, Northamptonshire.
Their sale; Dreweatt’s, Donnington Priory, 16 Nov. 2021, lot 45 (unsold).
D.E. Williams, The Life and Correspondence of Sir Thomas Lawrence, London, 1831, vol. I, p. 128.
R.S. Gower, Sir Thomas Lawrence, London, Paris & New York, 1900, p. 124.
Armstrong, Lawrence, London, 1913, p. 127.
Garlick, ‘A catalogue of the paintings, drawings and pastels of Sir Thomas Lawrence’, Walpole Society Journal, Glasgow, vol. XXXIX, 1964, p. 89.
Bamford, ‘Weston Hall, Northamptonshire – I: The Home of Sir Sacheverell and Lady Sitwell’, Country Life, 22 Jan. 1976, p. 178 (illus. fig. 10).
Garlick, Sir Thomas Lawrence: A Complete Catalogue of the Oil Paintings, Oxford, 1989, p. 180, no. 252 (illus. pl. 15).
London, Royal Academy, 1792, no. 183.
London, Royal Academy, Sir Thomas Lawrence PRA, 1961-62, no. 59.
Engraved: E. Harding, in stipple, published 1794.
This sensitive portrait of Sylvester Douglas, politician, diarist, and from 1800, Baron Glenbervie of Kincardine, was painted by Sir Thomas Lawrence circa 1792 and exhibited the same year at the Royal Academy. Douglas is shown in a professional capacity as a barrister and King’s Counsel; his most recent case brief lies on the table, loosely bound in its traditional red ribbon. Lawrence portrays him as a man of integrity and intelligence, dedicated to his profession.
Douglas was born in Fechil, Aberdeenshire, the elder and only surviving son of John Douglas, a landowner of Whiteriggs, Kincardineshire, and his first wife, Margaret Gordon, daughter and co-heir of James Gordon of Fechil. In 1766, Douglas took a medical degree at Leiden. After further travel in Europe, to France, Italy, Austria and Hungary, he returned to London in 1769 and transferred from medicine to law, entering Lincoln’s Inn in 1771. His political ambitions were evident from an early stage: prior to being called to the bar in 1776, he had already published reports on the disputed 1774 parliamentary elections to the House of Commons. From 1778 he reported Lord Mansfield’s judicial decisions in King’s Bench, published in 1783. He was elected FSA in 1781 and FRS 1795.
Douglas’s progression was undoubtedly assisted by his marriage in 1789 to Catherine Anne North (1760 – 1817), eldest daughter of Frederick North, 2nd Earl of Guilford (1732 – 1792) and Prime Minister from 1770-82. Lord North was renowned for his pacifying approach to the conflict in the colonies, arguing to George III that victory for Britain would be financially disastrous, an important factor in the success of the American War of Independence. Douglas joined the treasury board; in this role he promoted the Irish union, most notably in his speech of 22 April 1799, published in 1800. In January 1800, Douglas was appointed governor to the Cape, and on 30 November the same year he was created Lord Glenbervie of Kincardine in the Irish peerage. In the event he would not take up his position, and, for the next fifteen years, he was an active member of both the English and Irish parliaments, which he vividly documented in his diaries. These, together with his journals, published piecemeal in 1910 and 1928, provide a record of his aspirations and disappointments, interlaced with scandalous anecdotes, political gossip, and travel notes.
After the death of his wife in 1817 and his son in 1819, Lord Glenbervie turned to literary pursuits, publishing his translation of an excerpt from the Italian poet Fortiguerri’s Ricciardetto in 1822. He died the following year at Cheltenham on 2 May, 1823, whereupon his title became extinct