Emily and Laura Anne were the children of Charles Calmady of Langdon Court in Devonshire. Their portrait— shown at the Royal Academy, and engraved under the title Nature—has always been one of Lawrence's most popular works.
He once described it as "my best picture . . . one of the few I should wish hereafter to be known by."
Emily Greenwood Calmady, an amateur artist, brought her two elder daughters to Lawrence’s London studio in July 1823 on the advice of a friend, the engraver Frederick Christian Lewis, in the hope that Lawrence would offer to paint them. Lawrence was captivated by Emily and her younger sister Laura Anne. He asked two hundred guineas for a double portrait, though his regular price was two hundred and fifty guineas, but then reduced the price again to one hundred and fifty pounds. He began with a preliminary study in pencil and colored chalks (location unknown), which he gave to Mrs. Calmady when she admired it.
According to Lawrence, this work was his “best picture of the kind” and “one of the few I should wish hereafter to be known by" (Williams 1831). It was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1824, where it was enthusiastically received: the Times, on May 4, called it one of Lawrence's "happiest works"; the Literary Gazette, on May 8, described "the playful and beautiful sentiment that shines through all"; and the Examiner, on May 10, felt that only Correggio could have surpassed it. The painting was subsequently viewed by King George IV at Windsor, and in 1825 Lawrence took it with him to Paris, where he showed it privately. It was lithographed in color, becoming an extremely popular image in France. A line engraving of 1832 by George T. Doo and a mezzotint of 1835 by Samuel Cousins (The Met, 1978.676) are both titled Nature. There are several copies after the painting (Baetjer 2009, p. 216 n. 7).
The artist was a collector and connoisseur, and possible sources for his double portrait are Raphael’s Madonna della Sedia and Saint John the Baptist, Michelangelo’s Doni Tondo, Carlo Maratta’s paintings, and the Laocoön (of which Lawrence owned and displayed a lifesize cast; Levey 1979 and 2005, Wilson 1991, and Garlick 1993).
[2010; adapted from Baetjer 2009]
Inscription: Signed (on red drapery): T L Pins [T L Pin underlined]
the sitters' father, Charles Biggs Calmady, Langdon Hall, Wembury, near Plymouth, Devon (until d. 1855); their brother, Vincent Pollexfen Calmady, Langdon Hall, later Knighton, Wembury, and Tetcott, Holsworthy, Devon (1855–86; sale, Christie's, London, May 22, 1886, no. 115, as "Nature: The Daughters of C. B. Calmady," for £1,890 to Vincent, bought in); Collis P. Huntington, New York (until d. 1900; life interest to his widow, Arabella D. Huntington, later [from 1913] Mrs. Henry E. Huntington, 1900–d. 1924; life interest to their son, Archer Milton Huntington, 1924–terminated in 1925)
London. Royal Academy. 1824, no. 99 (as "Portraits of the Children of Charles B. Calmady, Esq.").
London. British Institution. 1830, no. 54 (lent by Charles B. Calmady).
London. South Kensington Museum. "International Exhibition," 1862, no. 177 (as "'Nature'—Portraits of the Two Daughters of C. B. Calmady, Esq.," lent by V. P. Calmady, Esq.).
London. Royal Academy of Arts. "Winter Exhibition," 1872, no. 26 (lent by Vincent P. Calmady, Esq.).
New York. Wildenstein. "The Child Through Four Centuries," March 1–28, 1945, no. 24.
New York. University Club. October 13, 1948–March 20, 1949.
Hempstead, N. Y. Hofstra College. "Metropolitan Museum Masterpieces," June 26–September 1, 1952, no. 30.
Milwaukee Auditorium. "Metropolitan Art Museum $1,000,000 Masterpiece Exhibition," March 7–14, 1953, unnumbered cat. (p. 22).
Austin, Tex. City Coliseum. "Texas Fine Arts Festival: Metropolitan Museum $1,000,000 Collection of Old Masters," April 18–26, 1953, unnum. checklist (p. 3).
Columbus, Ohio. Columbus Gallery of Fine Arts. "Sir Thomas Lawrence as Painter and Collector," October 7–November 13, 1955, no. 7.
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. "Masterpieces of Painting in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," September 16–November 1, 1970, unnumbered cat. (p. 99).
London. National Portrait Gallery. "Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1769–1830," November 9, 1979–March 16, 1980, no. 41.
Bordeaux. Galerie des Beaux-Arts. "Profil du Metropolitan Museum of Art de New York: de Ramsès à Picasso," May 15–September 1, 1981, no. 111.
New Haven. Yale Center for British Art. "Sir Thomas Lawrence: Portraits of an Age, 1790–1830," February 27–April 25, 1993, no. 9.
Fort Worth, Tex. Kimbell Art Museum. "Sir Thomas Lawrence: Portraits of an Age, 1790–1830," May 15–July 11, 1993, no. 9.
Richmond. Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. "Sir Thomas Lawrence: Portraits of an Age, 1790–1830," July 31–September 26, 1993, no. 9.
New Haven. Yale Center for British Art. "Great British Paintings from American Collections: Holbein to Hockney," September 27–December 30, 2001, no. 40.
London. Tate Britain. "Crossing the Channel: British and French Painting in the Age of Romanticism," February 5–May 11, 2003, no. 105.
Minneapolis Institute of Arts. "Crossing the Channel: British and French Painting in the Age of Romanticism," June 8–September 7, 2003, no. 105.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Crossing the Channel: British and French Painting in the Age of Romanticism," October 7, 2003–January 4, 2004, no. 105.
Frankfurt. Städel Museum. "Die Entdeckung der Kindheit: das englische Kinderporträt und seine europäische Nachfolge," April 20–July 15, 2007, no. 25.
London. Dulwich Picture Gallery. "The Changing Face of Childhood: British Children's Portraits and their Influence in Europe," August 1–November 4, 2007, no. 25.
London. National Portrait Gallery. "Thomas Lawrence: Regency Power and Brilliance," October 21, 2010–January 23, 2011, no. 46.
New Haven. Yale Center for British Art. "Thomas Lawrence: Regency Power and Brilliance," February 24–June 5, 2011, no. 46.
Sir Thomas Lawrence. Letter to Mrs. Calmady. March 23, 1824 [published in Ref. Roberts 1915, p. 66], requests another sitting with the children if convenient.
Literary Gazette (May 1, 1824), p. 282 [see Ref. Noon 2003, p. 189].
"Exhibition at the Royal Academy." Times (May 4, 1824), p. 3, calls it "one of [Lawrence's] happiest works".
County Literary Chronicle (May 8, 1824) [see Ref. Levey 1979], declares it to be beyond all praise "for expression and sentiment, execution and colouring".
Literary Gazette (May 8, 1824) [see Ref. Levey 1979], praises its execution and sentiment.
Examiner (May 10, 1824) [see Ref. Levey 1979], observes that no "genius short of Corregio's [sic]" could surpass it.
London Magazine (June 1824) [see Ref. Levey 1979], notes that it "might vie in expression with any picture of a similar subject of any age".
Sir Thomas Lawrence. Letter to Mrs. Calmady. October 25, 1824 [published in Ref. Williams 1831, vol. 2, pp. 342–43], writes that she is "quite right about the initials. I believe five pictures would include all on which I have written them".
"Fine Arts: Royal Academy." Edinburgh Annual Register 17 (January 1824), p. 381, notes "the 'Children of Charles B. Calmady, Esq.,' are beautiful, and seem actually alive".
Sir Thomas Lawrence. Letter to Abraham Raimbach. September 30, 1825 [published in Ref. Raimbach 1843, pp. 128–29 n. 141], writes to arrange for Raimbach to see the painting at his Paris hotel and show it to friends.
D. E. Williams. The Life and Correspondence of Sir Thomas Lawrence, Kt. London, 1831, vol. 2, pp. 331–45, describes the circumstances of its execution; states [in error] that it was shown at the French Academy; quotes Lawrence's remark that it was his "best picture of the kind . . . one of the few I should wish hereafter to be known by".
P. G. Patmore. Sir Thomas Lawrence's Cabinet of Gems. London, 1837, p. 19.
Abraham Raimbach. Memoirs and Recollections of the Late Abraham Raimbach, Esq., Engraver. Ed. M. T. S. Raimbach. London, 1843, pp. 128–29, mentions that in 1825, at his request, Lawrence (who at the time was painting Charles X) sent the portrait of the Calmady children to him at his Paris hotel so that he could show it to his French friends.
Charles Blanc in W. Bürger [Étienne-Joseph-Théophile Thoré]. "Thomas Lawrence." Histoire des peintres de toutes les écoles: école anglaise. Paris, 1863, pp. 10, 12, ill. p. 3 (Freeman engraving).
Richard Redgrave and Samuel Redgrave. A Century of Painters of the English School. London, 1866, vol. 2, pp. 12, 28, call it one of his best but compare it unfavorably to Reynolds's portraits of children.
Allan Cunningham. The Lives of the Most Eminent British Painters and Sculptors. Vol. 5, New York, 1868, p. 206 [1880 ed., vol. 3, p. 84].
William Harness inThe Literary Remains of Catherine Maria Fanshawe. London, 1876, pp. 35, 41–42, mentions that Lawrence said he had a poem by Fanshawe in mind when painting this work.
"Art Sales." Times (May 24, 1886), p. 6, states that "after a rather languid round of bids" it was sold for 1,800 guineas, or £1,890, to Vincent.
Ronald Gower. Romney and Lawrence. London, 1892, pp. 70–71, 102, 108, 113, 117, ill. p. 35.
"Fair Children at the Grafton Galleries." Pears' Pictorial 1 (June 1, 1895), pp. 26–27.
W[illiam]. Roberts. Memorials of Christie's: A Record of Art Sales from 1766 to 1896. London, 1897, vol. 2, p. 95, gives the sale price in 1886 as 1,890 guineas.
Gleeson White, ed. The Master Painters of Britain. Vol. 1, Edinburgh, 1897, p. 27, ill. 27 (engraving) [ed. 1909, p. 76, ill. p. 77], as Nature.
Ronald Sutherland Gower. Sir Thomas Lawrence. London, 1900, pp. 67–70, 114, ill. opp. p. 68 (E. Gaujean etching).
John van Dyke and Timothy Cole. Old English Masters Engraved by Timothy Cole. New York, 1902, p. 166.
"Pictures by Sir Thomas Lawrence: Original Prices and Present Values." Art-Journal (April 1904), p. 124.
R. S. Clouston. Sir Thomas Lawrence. London, , pl. 5, as Nature.
Masters in Art: Lawrence 8 (January 1907), p. 39, pl. IX, as Nature.
J. Kirby Grant. "Mrs. Collis P. Huntington's Collection." Connoisseur 20 (January 1908), p. 3.
Freeman O'Donoghue. Catalogue of Engraved British Portraits Preserved in the Department of Prints and Drawings in the British Museum. Vol. 1, 1908, pp. 320–21.
M. H. Spielmann. British Portrait Painting to the Opening of the Nineteenth Century. London, 1910, vol. 2, p. 66.
Walter Armstrong. Lawrence. New York, 1913, p. 118, pl. VIII (Samuel Cousins mezzotint), as Nature; mentions [in error] that it was exhibited at the Louvre in 1824.
Algernon Graves inSixty Drawings by Sir Thomas Lawrence, P.R.A. Exh. cat., Edward Gallery. London, 1913, p. 11.
Clayton Hamilton. "Children in Paintings (Sir Thomas Lawrence)." Munsey's Magazine 52 (July 1914), p. 274, ill. p. 265.
W[illiam]. Roberts. "Some Unpublished Lawrence Portraits." Connoisseur 41 (February 1915), p. 66, reproduces a letter about it from Lawrence to Mrs. Calmady.
William Orpen, ed. The Outline of Art. Vol. 2, New York, 1924, ill. opp. p. 265 (G. T. Doo engraving).
Bryson Burroughs. "The Collis P. Huntington Collection Comes to the Museum." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 20 (June 1925), p. 142, ill. on cover.
H[arry]. B. Wehle. "Notes on Paintings in the Huntington Collection." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 20 (July 1925), p. 178.
"Some of the Choicest Paintings in the Collis P. Huntington Collection at the Metropolitan Museum." Art News 23 (July 18, 1925), ill. p. 7.
Adams inAllgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler. Ed. Hans Vollmer. Vol. 22, Leipzig, 1928, p. 483.
Édouard Jonas. Collections léguées à la ville de Paris par Ernest Cognacq. Paris, 1930, p. 26.
A[lfred]. M. F[rankfurter]. "Comment and Correspondence." Antiquarian 16–17 (November 1931), p. 49, ill.
C. H. Collins Baker. British Painting. London, 1933, pp. 172, 281, pl. 114.
Myrtle B. McGraw. The Child in Painting. New York, 1941, p. 12, pl. 31.
E[lizabeth]. E. G[ardner]. "Notes." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 8 (November 1949), unpaginated, ill. inside cover and cover (color detail).
Douglas Goldring. Regency Portrait Painter: The Life of Sir Thomas Lawrence, P.R.A. London, 1951, pp. 301–2.
Kenneth Garlick. Sir Thomas Lawrence. London, 1954, pp. 15, 30, 88, pl. 99.
Mahonri Sharp Young. "Sir Thomas Lawrence, R.A.: Millionaire Collector." Art News 54 (October 1955), p. 25, ill. opp. p. 26 (color).
A. Hyatt Mayor. "The Gifts that Made the Museum." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 16 (November 1957), p. 106.
Kenneth Garlick. "A Catalogue of the Paintings, Drawings, and Pastels of Sir Thomas Lawrence." Walpole Society 39 (1964), pp. 46–47, 220, 322.
Calvin Tomkins. Merchants and Masterpieces: The Story of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1970, p. 190 [rev., enl. ed., 1989].
Michael Levey. Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1769–1830. Exh. cat., National Portrait Gallery. 1979, pp. 74–75, no. 41, ill.
Kenneth Garlick. "The Glamour of Lawrence." Apollo 111 (January 1980), p. 67.
Kenneth Garlick. Sir Thomas Lawrence: A Complete Catalogue of the Oil Paintings. Oxford, 1989, pp. 24, 26, 161, no. 152, colorpl. 89, states that it was bought in at the 1886 Christie's sale.
David Ekserdjian. "Head and Shoulders Above the Rest." Spectator (July 8, 1989), p. 35, calls it one of the very few signed works by Lawrence, noting that "it is initialled TL on the red ribbon at its base".
John Wilson. "The Romantics, 1790–1830." The British Portrait, 1660–1960. Woodbridge, England, 1991, pp. 295–97, colorpl. 52, reads the gestures and tondo form as an homage to Michelangelo.
J. M. H. Lewis. The Lewis Family, Art and Travel: Five Generations of Artists. n.p., , p. 4, states that Lawrence paid Frederick Christian Lewis eighty guineas for engraving this picture [Lewis actually engraved a preliminary drawing for the painting].
Kenneth Garlick. Sir Thomas Lawrence: Portraits of an Age, 1790–1830. Exh. cat., Yale Center for British Art, New Haven. Alexandria, Va., 1993, pp. 36–37, no. 9, ill. (color).
Leonée Ormond inThe Dictionary of Art. Ed. Jane Turner. Vol. 18, New York, 1996, pp. 893–94.
Katharine Baetjer. "British Portraits in The Metropolitan Museum of Art." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 57 (Summer 1999), pp. 68–70, ill. p. 67 (color).
Ludmilla Jordanova. Nature Displayed: Gender, Science and Medicine 1760–1820. London, 1999, p. 43, states "here is nature at its least threatening, simplest, and most idealised, in the figures of two innocent girls".
Robyn Asleson inGreat British Paintings from American Collections: Holbein to Hockney. Exh. cat., Yale Center for British Art, Yale University. New Haven, 2001, pp. 10, 146–49, no. 40, ill. (color).
Julius Bryant. Kenwood: Paintings in the Iveagh Bequest. New Haven, 2003, pp. 3, 279, 281, fig. 4.
Patrick Noon in Patrick Noon. Crossing the Channel: British and French Painting in the Age of Romanticism. Exh. cat., Tate Britain. London, 2003, pp. 188–89, no. 105, ill. (color), notes that Lawrence sent the picture to Paris, where Delacroix saw it, and where a lithograph was made for circulation in France.
Thérèse Burollet. Les peintures. Paris, 2004, p. 203, under no. 74.
Michael Levey. Sir Thomas Lawrence. New Haven, 2005, pp. 9, 118, 248, 250–52, 316, 318, 334 nn. 50, 52, 54, 56, colorpl. 134, suggests that an etching after Carlo Maratta of the Christ Child flanked by angels may have influenced the composition, also mentioning Reynolds's "Puck" (Executors of 10th Earl Fitzwilliam) as a source for Laura Anne's frontal pose and upraised hand; refers to the younger girl as Laura.
Katharine Baetjer inThe Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York: Chefs-d'œuvre de la peinture européenne. Exh. cat., Fondation Pierre Gianadda. Martigny, 2006, pp. 17–18 [Catalan ed., Barcelona, 2006, p. 18].
Mirjam Neumeister inThe Changing Face of Childhood: British Children's Portraits and their Influence in Europe. Ed. Mirjam Neumeister. Exh. cat., Städel Museum, Frankfurt. London, 2007, pp. 28, 87, 150, 184–87, 194, no. 25, ill. in color pp. 4 (detail) and 185, calls the embrace of the Allen brothers in Raeburn's portrait of about 1790 (Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth) a precursor to that of the Calmady sisters, which in turn influenced the poses of Prince Alfred and Princess Helena in Winterhalter's portrait of 1849 (Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II); states that the composition is probably based on Raphael's "Madonna della sedia" (Palazzo Pitti, Florence); calls the younger girl Anne.
Katharine Baetjer. British Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1575–1875. New York, 2009, pp. 215–17, no. 106, ill. (color).
A. Cassandra Albinson inThomas Lawrence: Regency Power & Brilliance. Ed. A. Cassandra Albinson et al. Exh. cat., National Portrait Gallery, London. New Haven, 2010, pp. xix, 179, 181, 192, 254–57, 288, no. 46, ill. (color).
Marcia Pointon inThomas Lawrence: Regency Power & Brilliance. Ed. A. Cassandra Albinson et al. Exh. cat., National Portrait Gallery, London. New Haven, 2010, pp. 55, 60, 62–63, 72, 78, 80–81 nn. 4, 27, fig. 46 (color detail), mentions Lawrence's repeated motif of a child with one arm raised that he had adapted from Reynolds's "The Child Baptist in the Wilderness" (Wallace Collection, London).
Lucy Peltz and Peter Funnell inThomas Lawrence: Regency Power & Brilliance. Ed. A. Cassandra Albinson et al. Exh. cat., National Portrait Gallery, London. New Haven, 2010, p. 219.
Malcolm Warner. "Books: British Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art." Burlington Magazine 153 (April 2011), p. 257, reviews Ref. Baetjer 2009.
Emily (1818–?1906) and Laura Anne Calmady (1820–1894) were the first two children of Charles Biggs Calmady (d. 1855) of Langdon Hall and his wife, Emily Greenwood (b. 1794), eldest daughter of William Greenwood of Brookwood Park, Hampshire. The couple married in 1816. The sitters died unmarried.
In addition to engravings by George T. Doo and Samuel Cousins, prints by Linton, Dujardin, Scott, Appleton, Gaujean, Cole, and Gigoux are recorded.