Study portrait

Arthur James Balfour c. 1908

Seated half-length to the right, full-face, wearing informal dress; a loose jacket and dark knotted tie, his left hand resting against his cheek

Oil on canvas, 116.9 x 85.8 cm (46 x 33 ¾ in.)

Inscribed lower right:  Étude de Mr. Balfour / Souvenir de / P.A. László   

Sitters’ Book I, f. 80: Arthur James Balfour June 20 / 1908 

National Portrait Gallery, London


Balfour sat to de László in June 1908 for a formal portrait [2705] which the sitter commissioned to hang at Whittingehame, his family seat. This spontaneous study may have been executed then, or in August 1908, when the artist visited Balfour and his sister at Whittingehame on his way back from Gosford.[1] 

De László painted a second formal portrait of him, in 1914 [2707], for Trinity College, Cambridge, for which there also exists two preparatory works [2335] & [2708], both of which remain in the collections of descendants of the artist.

For biographical notes on the sitter, see [2705].


The Countess of Wemyss;

Bequeathed to the National Portrait Gallery, 1931;

On loan to 10 Downing Street from 1984 to 1999


•The Dowdeswell Galleries, London, An Exhibition of Portraits by Philip A. Laszlo, June and July 1908, n° 28


•Abdy, Jane. The Souls, London, 1984, pp. 42-3, ill.

•McConkey, Kenneth. Edwardian Portraits, London, 1987, n° 87, pp. 238-39, ill. p. 238

•Cannadine, David, The Decline and Fall of the British Aristocracy, 2nd ed., Picador, London 1992, pl. 41

•László, Lucy de, 1908 diary, 5 June entry, p. 181

We are grateful to the National Portrait Gallery in London for their support. The image above should not be reproduced without prior written permission from the National Portrait Gallery, London

CC  2008

[1] The property of the 10th Earl and Countess of Wemyss. It may be that they accompanied de László on his visit, and that he painted the study portrait in the company of this group of friends, and gave the resulting work to the Wemyss family then.