Portrait of Cécile Elizabeth Florence Rankin, Lady Grandy (1914-1993)

Oil on canvas: 60(h) x 40.2(w) in /

152.4(h) x 102.2(w) cm

Signed and dated lower right: de László / 1937.VI

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BT 231



Budapest 1869 – 1937 London


Portrait of Cécile Elizabeth Florence Rankin, Lady Grandy (1914-1993)


Signed and dated lower right: de László /1937.VI

Oil on canvas: 60 x 40 ¼ in / 152.4 x 102.2 cm

Frame size: 71 x 51 ½ in / 180.3 x 130.8 cm



Commissioned by Sir Robert Rankin, the sitter’s father and then by descent

Alberto Pinto, Paris



Photograph by Paul Laib (Witt Library) L16550L (289)/C23 (32)

NPG Album 1936-37, p.21

Sitters’ Book, II, f. 87: Cécile EF Rankin 21-5-37

Rachel Silver and Caroline Brandenburger, Establishment Wives, 1989, p.167


To be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of portraits by the artist currently being compiled by the Hon. Mrs de László and a team of editors, as no.6741



Philip de László depicted European high society from the 1890s to the 1930s, evoking the style and elegance of succeeding decades while investing his sitters with a timeless fascination that is also found in the portraits of Reynolds and Lawrence. Aged twenty-three, the patrician beauty Miss Cécile Rankin sits on a gilt Bergère chair wearing a luminous, full-skirted gown with wide puffed sleeves, whose lustrous sheen compliments her porcelain complexion. Her large blue satin sash, casting shadows across her dress, draws attention to her bright eyes and is also picked up in the vibrant blue-violet irises on her right. De László’s luxurious brushwork and painterly brilliance is evident in the play of light across the sitter’s face and hair, catching her shimmering drop earrings and diamond bracelet, the giltwood and glass.


Cécile Rankin, born 3rd May 1914, was the youngest daughter of Sir Robert Rankin (1877-1961), a Conservative MP created Baron in 1937 for services to the City of Liverpool, and Renée Baker (-1932). Cécile posed for her portrait in May 1937[1], one of the last to be painted by the artist prior to his death on 22nd November that year. The painting was commissioned as a gift by Sir Robert on the occasion of his daughter’s marriage to John Grandy (1913-2004), Flight-Lieutenant in the Royal Air Force, Adjutant and Instructor of the newly-formed University of London Air Squadron. Grandy distinguished himself as the commander of No.249 Hurricane Squadron, one of Fighter Command’s most successful during the Battle of Britain, while Cécile served as an ambulance and staff officer driver during the Second World War. In 1967, John Grandy was made a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Bath and retired as Marshal of The Royal Air Force in 1971. Two years later he became Governor of Gibraltar and later Governor and Constable of Windsor Castle from 1979-1989, before he retired. Lady Grandy, who had two sons, John (born 1947) and William (born 1948), died on 13th September 1993.


As a child, Cécile had been painted by Sir Alfred Munnings with her mother and sister at their home Broughton Towers, Lancashire (Mrs Robert Rankin and her daughters, Broughton Towers, exhibited at the Royal Academy of 1922).



The Sketch, 8th September 1937, p.460.                                            The Sketch, 26th May 1937, p.xx

























Budapest 1869 – 1937 London


Philip de László was one of the most stylish and successful portrait painters of the late nineteenth and first half of the twentieth centuries. Like John Singer Sargent (1856-1925), he was an exponent of the fluidly-painted ‘swagger portrait’, but always managed to capture a sense of the sitter’s interior life, sometimes with a tinge of romantic melancholy. He portrayed the glamorous European high society that was rent asunder by the First World War and the leading figures of the era that succeeded it.


Born Fülöp Elek Laub in 1869 in Budapest, the son of a tailor, Philip de László began his studies at the Hungarian National Academy of Arts under Bertalan Székely and Károly Lotz. In 1890 he won a scholarship to study in Munich at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste with Sándor Liezen-Mayer. He also studied briefly at the Académie Julian in Paris. De László’s first works were highly detailed genre and history paintings, but he soon turned to portraiture and became one of the most fashionable artists of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He portrayed Emperor Franz Joseph I in 1899 (Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest) and in 1900 a hugely successful exhibition in Berlin led to commissions from the German Royal Family.


In 1900 de László married Lucy Guinness from the renowned Irish banking family and in 1907 they moved to London, where de László received many commissions from the British aristocracy. In 1908 de László visited the United States to paint President Theodore Roosevelt (American Museum of Natural History, New York), a trip which brought commissions from several other wealthy Americans. He was appointed MVO by King Edward VII in 1909.


Briefly interned on suspicion of spying for Austria during the First World War, de László continued throughout his life to paint portraits of some of the most famous and influential figures of the twentieth century, including the Duchess of York (the future Queen Mother), Princess Elizabeth (the future Queen Elizabeth II), Andrew Mellon, Benito Mussolini, Arthur Balfour and Jerome K Jerome. Strongly influenced by the work of Velásquez, de László wrote in 1936: ‘the picture must show us the spirit by which the human form is vitalised…it must provide the sitter with the surroundings and atmosphere which are suitable to his personality and consistent with his state of life’.


The work of Philip de László is represented in the Royal Collection, London; the National Portrait Gallery, London; the Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest; the American Museum of Natural History, New York and the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC.

[1] ‘De László produced four related preparatory works, a charcoal sketch in what was to be his last sketchbook [111592], a sketch in black pastel [10914], one in graphite [6742], and an oil sketch [112165], all of which remained in his possession on his death. The artist also presented the sitter with a finished portrait drawing as a gift in honour of her marriage [6736].’ Katherine Field, The Catalogue Raisonné of Works by Philip de Laszlo MVO PRBA, 1869-1937, no.6741 (online