The National Portrait Gallery has launched a public appeal in an attempt to acquire Sir Thomas Lawrence’s final, uncompleted portrait of the Duke of Wellington. 

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Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington by Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1829. (c)Private Collection. 

The portrait has been offered to the London gallery for £1.3 million, with the appeal being put into action today with a donation of £350,000 from the Art Fund, which along with the National Portrait gallery’s own funds means that £1 million of the total has already been raised and just leaves £300,000 to be raised by the spring of 2017.

The acquiring of this portrait will be extremely important to the gallery, as it has no other significant portrait of the Duke in its Collection – a figure of extreme importance in British history.

In his lifetime, Sir Thomas Lawrence created eight portraits of the Duke and was considered to be his definitive image maker.

The portrait was started in 1829, the year in which Wellington was made Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports and in which he fought a duel with Lord Winchilsea over the issue of Catholic emancipation. It was commissioned at the height of Wellington’s political career when he was Prime Minister.

Dr Nicholas Cullinan, Director of the National Portrait Gallery, London, says: ‘We have been searching for a portrait that can do justice to this iconic British hero since 1856. The lack of a suitable depiction of the Duke of Wellington has long been identified as the biggest gap in our Collection. If we can raise the funds this remarkable painting by Sir Thomas Lawrence will be on permanent display and free for over two million visitors to enjoy each year.’

The painting was lent to the National Portrait Gallery’s exhibition Wellington: Triumphs, Politics and Passions on display  in 2015 to mark the bicentenary year of the Battle of Waterloo. Prior to its loan to the Gallery from a private collection for a short period of display just before the exhibition opened, the portrait, which is in excellent condition, had not been on public view for any significant period since it was painted.

For more information on the appeal and how to help visit:npg.org.uk/wellington.

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