National Portrait Gallery launches public appeal for Duke of Wellington portrait

We are pleased to be supporting the gallery's acquisition of Sir Thomas Lawrence's unfinished final portrait of Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington.

The painting has been offered to the National Portrait Gallery for £1.3m, to be raised by spring 2017. Today we were able to kick-start the appeal with a donation of £350,000 which – alongside the gallery's own funds – means £1m of the total has already been raised.

The gallery currently has no other significant portrait of the Duke – one of the most iconic and popular figures in British history – in its collection and has been seeking to secure such a piece since it opened in 1856. This work is one of only two portraits of Wellington that is every likely to come up for sale.

A leading artist of his age, Sir Thomas Lawrence made eight portraits of Wellington and was his definitive image maker. The large oil-on-canvas portrait was created a year after Wellington had become Conservative prime minister, after being commissioned by Sarah, Countess of Jersey, a leading political hostess and supporter of the party in the 1820s. At Lawrence's death in 1830, the portrait remained unfinished. But unlike many other clients, Lady Jersey refused to have it finished by a studio assistant.

Stephen Deuchar, director of the Art Fund, said: 'The National Portrait Gallery will make a fine home for this intensely compelling portrait of Wellington. We are pleased to have made a major grant towards it purchase, and hope the public will support the appeal to raise the remaining funds. This is a very important national acquisition.'

To find out more about the appeal visit the National Portrait Gallery's website or follow the conversation on Twitter using hashtag #giveitsomewelly.

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