Honours and Insignia: Georgian Portraiture at Mount Stuart

Essay by Martin Postle and Lisa Ford


In 1712, James Stuart, 2nd Earl of Bute, began to construct a new grand house at Mount Stuart. Completed by 1718, Mount Stuart replaced the family’s ancestral home at nearby Rothesay.1 Commensurate with his desire to build a house in keeping with his aristocratic status and dynastic aspirations, Lord Bute commissioned a series of official family portraits. Over the ensuing decades, and into the nineteenth century, his descendants continued to commission similar portraits, particularly his son, John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute, and his grandson, John Stuart, 4th Earl and 1st Marquess of Bute. Significant among this series of portraits were those intended to demonstrate the various offices and honours invested on the individuals depicted, as much as to capture a likeness. Elaborate robes, distinctive costumes, badges and collars signified that the subjects of these portraits represented a dynasty that wielded power and exhibited the trappings of political status, as well as keen aesthetic judgement. The present study explores for the first time together the series of major ‘honours’ portraits displayed at Mount Stuart: pictures by William Aikman, Allan Ramsay, Joshua Reynolds, Thomas Gainsbrough, Thomas Lawrence and Henry Raeburn, which constitute collectively among the most important collections of its kind, and which raise further questions concerning the networks of patronage exercised by a family whose taste, political influence and power base extended throughout the British Isles and into Europe.

William Aikman and Early Eighteenth-Century Portraits of the Earls of Bute

In 1703, James Stewart (1666–1710) was elevated from the baronetcy and created 1st Earl of Bute. At that time the family’s residence on the Isle of Bute was the mansion at Rothesay, close by the ruined Rothesay Castle. Information concerning the pictures on display there is provided by an inventory of the contents taken in 1717, after the 1st Earl’s death, in preparation for the removal of furnishings to the new residence at Mount Stuart.2 ‘My Lady’s Drawing Room’ contained among other works ‘two pictures of the Dutchess of Argyle with black and gilt mouldings/ four pictures done by Liley with black and gilt mouldings’, ‘two Italian paintings’ and ‘forty-one drawings with black and gilt mouldings’.3 Elsewhere, spread across various apartments, were ‘two Dutch large heads’, ‘two ladys pictures’, a series of framed prints, ‘three views of St Pauls’ and ‘One Large Piece of painting with a gilded frame’. Not mentioned in the inventory are two full-length portraits of the 1st Earl (fig. 1) and his first wife, Agnes Mackenzie, which today hang on the Marble Staircase at Mount Stuart. While he remained resolutely Scottish, Bute was loyal to the Crown, as a soldier, politician and Privy Counsellor. The portraits in question may have been commissioned originally for Bute’s residence in Edinburgh or even London, although they were moved to Mount Stuart at some point during the eighteenth century.4

James Stewart, 1st Earl of Bute

Figure 1.
Attributed to William Aikman, James Stewart, 1st Earl of Bute, after 1703. Oil on canvas, 236.2 × 144.8 cm. The Bute Collection at Mount Stuart.

Digital image courtesy of The Bute Collection at Mount Stuart / Photo: Keith Hunter. (All rights reserved)

Curiously, these two portraits do not appear to have been conceived as pendants. The Countess, by an unknown artist, is depicted in a blue silk dress and attended by a spaniel. She died in 1696. If the portrait features Bute’s first wife, his portrait must be later. Indeed, although the female portrait has been identified as Bute’s first wife, it is possible that it features his second wife, Christian Dundas. Enlarged from a head-and-shoulders portrait into a full-length canvas, Bute is depicted in the Coronation robes of an earl and must therefore postdate the earldom conferred on him in April 1703. The authorship of the portrait is uncertain, although it has been attributed to William Aikman.

As the construction of the new house at Mount Stuart got under way, the 2nd Lord Bute, whose father had died in 1710, commissioned a series of official family portraits from Aikman (1682–1731). Aikman, who was educated at the University of Edinburgh and had trained originally as a lawyer, came from a gentrified background, his maternal uncle being Sir John Clerk, 1st Baronet of Penicuik.5 Having sold his own estate to finance his travels abroad, Aikman visited Italy in 1707, venturing also to Constantinople and Smyrna. He was also well connected, not least in literary circles, his friends including the eminent Scots poets Allan Ramsay and James Thomson.6 Aikman’s principal patron was the prominent soldier and statesman John Campbell, 2nd Duke of Argyll, who was instrumental in promoting his career in Scotland on his return from the Continent. And it was evidently Argyll, Bute’s brother-in-law, who introduced him to Aikman.7

The specific circumstances surrounding the series of portrait commissions from Aikman by the 2nd Earl are related in a series of letters of 1716 sent to the Earl by his lawyer, Ronald Campbell, who like Aikman was based in Edinburgh.8 In a letter of 21 January, Campbell informed the earl that Aikman had now completed portraits of Sir Robert Stuart Bt, of Tillicoultry, uncle to the 1st Earl of Bute, and his father-in-law, Sir George Mackenzie of Rosehaugh, whose estates the 2nd Earl inherited. Campbell added, ‘mr. aikman desyres to know whether ye desire them Squar or ovals because he can make the Squar ovals bot not the ovall Squar’. (In the event, the Earl settled for rectangular portraits.) Campbell also reported that Aikman had in his possession a portrait of Bute’s father, the first earl, and that although he had not begun the copy ‘he will do so without delay’. The portrait of the 1st Earl, although we cannot be certain, may have been the same one that now hangs at Mount Stuart (see fig. 1). In addition, Campbell mentioned that Aikman was painting a copy of a portrait of Lord Tillicoultrie’s deceased nephew, Dugald Stuart, Lord Blairhall (d. 1712) for his widow and suggested also that Bute should have a copy of ‘the Duke of Argyll’s picture’. It was, presumably, in anticipation of the move to Mount Stuart that the 2nd Earl was concerned, through these commissions, to acknowledge his wider family and their place in securing his own position and fortunes.

In two subsequent letters of 1716, Campbell again discusses Bute’s employment of Aikman. On 19 July he mentions that he has given Aikman £5 ‘to buy his cullors and oyles and to carie his charges per advance’, adding that having given him ‘ten pound 2 sh and sixpence I am quyt brocke’.9 Eleven days later, on 30 July, Campbell wrote with details concerning various payments he had disbursed to Aikman for commissions, noting also that Aikman had left Edinburgh ten days ago ‘and carried all his materials with him’. ‘I hope’, he added, ‘he will please you’.10 Campbell’s comment appears to indicate that Aikman himself was now bound for Bute in order to carry out further commissions – quite possibly the two full-length ceremonial portraits of Lord Bute (fig. 2) and the Countess that now hang in the Entrance Hall at Mount Stuart. In 1711 the 2nd Earl had married Lady Anne Campbell, the daughter of Archibald, 1st Duke of Argyll, thus cementing the union between the two families. On the accession of George I, Bute was appointed one of the commissioners of trade and police in Scotland, lord-lieutenant of the county of Bute and a lord of the bedchamber. During the rebellion of 1715 he commanded the Bute and Argyll militia and was one of the representatives of the Scots peerage at general elections in 1715. His credentials as a loyal servant of the Hanoverian crown were therefore impeccable. In Aikman’s pendant portraits, the Earl and Countess are dressed in coronation robes, a mode of formal dress that had a particular currency following the king’s recent coronation at Westminster Abbey in October 1714.

James Stewart, 2nd Earl of Bute

Figure 2.
Attributed to William Aikman, James Stewart, 2nd Earl of Bute, ?1716. Oil on canvas, 236.2 × 144.8 cm. The Bute Collection at Mount Stuart.

Digital image courtesy of The Bute Collection at Mount Stuart / Photo: Keith Hunter. (All rights reserved)

Having established a secure portrait career in Scotland, Aikman was encouraged by the Duke of Argyll to move with his family to London in 1723. It was there that he painted the full-length of John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute (fig. 3), who had succeeded to the title as a nine-year-old on the death of his father in January 1723. According to Francis Russell, it was painted in the spring or summer of 1730, prior to Bute’s departure for Holland in June of that year, the decision to commission Aikman presumably being made by Bute’s uncle, John Campbell, 2nd Duke of Argyll.11 Rather than being portrayed in peer’s robes, Bute is depicted in tartan trews and plaid, a form of Highland dress suitable for riding. At this time this mode of dress was relatively uncommon in portraiture, although it can be compared to a full-length portrait of the early 1720s of Major James Fraser of Castle Leathers, attributed to John Vanderbank.12 Significantly, the Bute family and Fraser, although proudly Scottish, were loyal to the Crown, and the adoption of Highland dress in portraiture at that time would not necessarily have had Jacobite connotations. This portrait of the young Earl must have been among the artist’s latest portraits, for Aikman died of tuberculosis the following year, in June 1731, at his home in Leicester Fields, London.13 His body was interred in Greyfriars Churchyard, Edinburgh.

John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute

Figure 3.
William Aikman, John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute, 1730. Oil on canvas, 238.7 × 144.7 cm. The Bute Collection at Mount Stuart.

Digital image courtesy of The Bute Collection at Mount Stuart / Photo: Keith Hunter. (All rights reserved)

Allan Ramsay and the 3rd Earl of Bute

John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute, the subject of Aikman’s final Bute family portrait, was born on 25 May 1713 in the family’s Edinburgh residence in Parliament Square, and grew up under the guardianship of his maternal uncles, John Campbell, 2nd Duke of Argyll, and his younger brother, Archibald, who succeeded him in 1743 as the 3rd Duke of Argyll. Educated at Eton College and the University of Leiden, Bute married in 1736 the wealthy heiress Mary Wortley Montagu, a union that secured his financial fortunes, as well as his future family dynasty. Although Bute was at that time promoted in political circles by his uncles, he maintained a low profile, focusing his attention on his Scottish estates and his abiding interest in botany. It was not until the aftermath of the 1745 rebellion that he moved to London, where he joined the circle of the heir to the throne, Frederick, Prince of Wales. It was following the Prince’s unexpected death in 1751 that Bute assumed the role of tutor to Frederick’s son, Prince George, and formed a close friendship with his widow, Princess Augusta. It was also during this formative period of his political career that Bute’s mature public image was fashioned through the portraiture of the eminent Scottish painter Allan Ramsay, whose own career had been advanced since the later 1730s by his Scots aristocratic patrons, notably the 2nd Duke of Argyll. As the artist and diarist George Vertue noted in 1739, Ramsay was ‘much cried up by the Scottish Gentry they being much pleasd with their Countrymans performances among the rest the Duke of Argyle sat for his picture at whole length in his robes & his Dutches’.14 Although the double portrait of the duke and duchess to which Vertue refers is untraced, the following year Ramsay painted a single full-length portrait of the duke in Garter robes, a painting which may have influenced Bute’s decision to employ Ramsay later the following decade, not least given the status of his politically powerful uncle.15

In the autumn of 1757, Bute, who had taken on the role of tutor the previous year, commissioned from Ramsay a full-length portrait of the Prince of Wales, which presently hangs in the Dining Room at Mount Stuart.16 The following year, the Prince reciprocated by commissioning a full-length portrait of Bute (fig. 4). That image, which exists in two autograph versions, is among the grandest and most impressive official distinctive portraits painted by Ramsay later in his career. Here, Bute displays the regalia marking his membership of the Order of the Thistle as well as his office of Groom of the Stole, which hangs from his belt. Bute was appointed Groom of the Stole in 1756 and had been a member of the Order of the Thistle since 1738. His pride in the Thistle is reflected in correspondence from September of that year, contained in the archive at Mount Stuart, which discusses in detail the fabrication of the badge and chain (fig. 5) and its related expense.17 However, at that time Bute was clearly less interested in Scottish politics than in pursuing familial and personal interests, which could explain why no portrait was then commissioned to mark the acquisition of the Order. Twenty years later, living in London, firmly ensconced in the Royal Household and rising to national prominence (Bute was Prime Minister from 1762 to 1763), Bute clearly required a grand official portrait that reflected his position and status. It is also significant that in 1758 Bute commissioned from Ramsay a full-length version of the seated portrait of his uncle, Archibald Campbell, 3rd Duke of Argyll, wearing the robes of the lord-justice general (fig. 6).18 Possession of Ramsay’s image of this powerful Scottish nobleman was calculated surely to strengthen Bute’s own powerbase in the capital, and his aristocratic lineage.

John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute

Figure 4.
Allan Ramsay, John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute, 1758. Oil on canvas, 239.4 × W 147 cm. National Trust for Scotland, Hermiston Quay (65.468).

Digital image courtesy of National Trust for Scotland, Hermiston Quay. (All rights reserved)

Insignia of a Knight Companion of the Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle, bestowed on John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute

Figure 5.
Insignia of a Knight Companion of the Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle, bestowed on John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute,

Digital image courtesy of The Bute Collection at Mount Stuart / Photo: Keith Hunter. (All rights reserved)

1758. Oil on canvas, 236.2 × 144.8 cm. The Bute Collection at Mount Stuart.

Figure 6.
Allan Ramsay, Archibald Campbell, 3rd Duke of Argyll, 1758. Oil on canvas, 236.2 × 144.8 cm. The Bute Collection at Mount Stuart.

Digital image courtesy of The Bute Collection at Mount Stuart / Photo: Keith Hunter. (All rights reserved)

The first version of Ramsay’s portrait of Bute was presented by the 6th Marquess of Bute to the National Trust for Scotland in 1966 and presently hangs in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh. Close examination of the portrait reveals that it was painted originally as a head-and-shoulders composition, the 30 by 25-inch canvas being subsequently incorporated into the full-length composition.19 The same procedure had been followed in Bute’s commissioned portrait of the Prince, where the head-and-shoulders portrait had been sewn into the larger canvas: a pragmatic process dictated by circumstance and the sheer pressure of portrait commissions that burdened the overworked artist. As Ramsay informed Bute in a letter of 12 August 1758, he hoped to have completed the portrait by the end of September, ‘having already made the studies for the hands and other necessary preparations’. Bute’s ‘collar’ (or ceremonial badge and chain), as Ramsay noted, was in the safekeeping of his wife, although he added: ‘your Lordship may have it at any time, if you have occasion for it’. With regard to the Prince’s own portrait, he noted in a postscript that it was ‘dry enough to be transported, if necessary’, although until it was framed with a hook on it, he did not feel it was safe in any house but his own.20 Since Bute was now domiciled permanently in London, the portrait of the Prince was destined without doubt for his residence in South Audley Street, a short distance from Ramsay’s studio in Soho Square.

Having taken possession of the full-length portrait of the Prince, Bute commissioned a second autograph version of his own portrait from Ramsay. This version (fig. 7), which presently hangs in the Dining Room at Mount Stuart, must have been displayed originally in Bute’s London townhouse, alongside the Prince’s portrait. There, the composition clearly impressed William Fitzmaurice, Earl of Shelburne, Bute’s young political ally, sufficiently for him to commission a copy for his newly reconstructed country house, Bowood in Wiltshire. As Shelburne informed Bute in the summer of 1761, since ‘the outside is not so antient as I wish it I am therefore the more sollicitous [sic] to furnish it within, with the portraits of Men of Antient Honour, if my Character & the Times furnish me with friends for it. Will your Lordship Honour me and set the Example, and let Ramsay give me a copy of your Picture which is at his House’.21 Bute duly obliged and in December 1761 Ramsay reported to Bute that the ‘whole length copy of your Lordship’s picture for Lord Shelburne, and the half-length for Mr Weston, are both, in a manner finished: and wait chiefly for the sittings your Lordship seemed to promise them’.22 ‘Mr Weston’ was evidently the veteran politician Edward Weston (1703–1770), whom Bute had recalled as under-secretary of state for the north, his commission being predicated presumably by his return to office and his appreciation for Bute’s patronage. The whereabouts of his copy remains unknown.23

1758. Oil on canvas, 236.2 × 147.3 cm. The Bute Collection at Mount Stuart.

Figure 7.
Allan Ramsay, John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute, 1758. Oil on canvas, 236.2 × 147.3 cm. The Bute Collection at Mount Stuart.

Digital image courtesy of The Bute Collection at Mount Stuart / Photo: Keith Hunter. (All rights reserved)

In 1758, apparently at the request of Bute and the King, Ramsay requested the Scottish printmaker Robert Strange to make an engraving of the Prince’s portrait. Strange’s refusal to comply with the request, principally on the grounds that it would prevent him from undertaking more profitable commissions, led to an acrimonious correspondence with Ramsay, which terminated their association.24 And it was not until three years later, in March 1761, by which time the Prince had ascended to the throne, that the printmaker William Wynne Ryland published an engraving of Ramsay’s portrait, inscribed ‘George the Third, King of Great Britain, &c. &c. &c’. In February 1763, he published a print of Bute, inscribed ‘John, Earl of Bute, first Lord of the Treasury; Knight of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, &c. &c. &c’ (fig. 8). Clearly, the engravings of the King and his prime minister were intended to function as pendants, promoting the professional and personal bond that united them at the very time that Bute’s public image was being undermined by a slew of vicious, and at times obscene, satirical prints.25

1763. Mezzotint engraving, 59.5 × 38.5 cm. The British Museum (1893,1018.11).

Figure 8.
William Wynne Ryland, after Allan Ramsay, John, Earl of Bute, first Lord of the Treasury, Knight of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, 1763. Mezzotint engraving, 59.5 × 38.5 cm. The British Museum (1893,1018.11).

Digital image courtesy of The Trustees of the British Museum. (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

While Ryland’s print reproduced faithfully every detail of Ramsay’s portrait of the erstwhile prince, in the Bute engraving Ryland incorporated alterations to the regalia, omitting the key of the Groom of the Stole, and substituting the Order of the Garter for the Order of the Thistle. The reason was that in 1761 Bute, who had been confirmed as Groom of the Stole to the King in November 1760, relinquished the role, while in 1762 he resigned from the Order of the Thistle, only to be elevated shortly afterwards to the Order of the Garter, as he rose to prominence as First Lord of the Treasury, or Prime Minister.26 Given Bute’s rapid ascent to power, Ryland’s engraving, rather than the more time-consuming and expensive option of commissioning a new portrait in Garter robes, would have been regarded as expedient. The significance of the Order of the Garter in Bute’s engraved portrait was amplified by its presence in the companion engraving of the King, George having not only been invested with the order by his grandfather George II in 1749, but having also become Sovereign of the order on his accession. It was, moreover, an honour to which the King was personally attached.

Joshua Reynolds and the 3rd Earl of Bute

Aside from Ryland’s engraving, there was one other image relating to Bute’s ministry, which reflected his membership of the Order of the Garter: this was the double portrait by Joshua Reynolds, of 1763 (fig. 9). Here, he is depicted, with his secretary Charles Jenkinson, wearing the regalia expected as daily wear for members of the order – the Garter star on his coat, the ribbon with the Lesser George draping from left shoulder to right hip and the garter round his knee. The alleged circumstances surrounding the commission were reported by ‘Fresnoy’ some years later in the Middlesex Journal in an open letter to Reynolds:

Some time ago Lord Eglinton, at your request, solicited and persuaded Lord Bute to sit to you for a picture to hang in his new house in Piccadilly. He did sit to you and you never painted a finer picture in your life. The reverberation of its fame was too powerful not to enter the ears of the King, who begged Lord Eglinton to let him see it. No sooner had he seen this most striking resemblance of his greatest favourite but he insisted that Lord Eglinton should let him have it.27

1763. Oil on canvas, 244 × 211 cm. The Bute Collection at Mount Stuart.

Figure 9.
Joshua Reynolds, John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute and Charles Jenkinson, 1763. Oil on canvas, 244 × 211 cm. The Bute Collection at Mount Stuart.

Digital image courtesy of The Bute Collection at Mount Stuart / Photo: Keith Hunter. (All rights reserved)

According to Fresnoy, the portrait was commissioned by the Scottish peer Alexander Montgomerie, 10th Earl of Eglinton. And, as Reynolds’s sales ledger indicates, the portrait was purchased ultimately by George III for 200 guineas in December 1763, some months after Bute had left office.28 While Reynolds’s sitter book for 1763 is untraced, the portrait must have been begun before Bute’s resignation from office in April of that year. Reynolds may, however, have been working on the picture into the summer months, as it is mentioned by several newspapers in early August.29 According to the newspapers, Jenkinson, who holds a sheaf of papers, is presenting Bute with ‘the Preliminaries of Peace’, a reference to the preliminary Treaty of Paris between the French and British governments, signed in November 1762. The date inscribed by Reynolds on the papers is, however, 1763, the Treaty having been ratified by the British in February of that year. And, while the British public disapproved, the Treaty was regarded by the King and his ministers as a significant achievement. For Reynolds, who did not otherwise espouse the King or his favoured Tory politicians, his intention in securing the commission may have been motivated principally by a desire to register his superiority over Ramsay, by demonstrating his prowess in modern ‘historical’ narrative portraiture, as Bute in the guise of statesman sanctions the Treaty with one hand while with the other he retains a firm grip on the public purse.30

While Reynolds enhanced his reputation and profited financially from the commission, following the estrangement from Bute, the King would have had no need of the portrait. Indeed, according to the satirical Fresnoy, writing in 1769, he had consigned it to the royal aviary, ‘where it certainly would be most seen, and by all sorts of people’.31 By 1785, as reported in the Morning Herald, the picture was to be found languishing in a gloomy corridor in Reynolds’s house, having been ‘expelled the lumber-room of favourites at Buckingham-House to make room for the Marquis of Buckingham’.32 By now surplus entirely to royal requirement, the portrait was – or was about to be – presented by the King to Bute’s son and heir, Lord Mountstuart.33 Around the same time the King also gifted his version of Ramsay’s full-length portrait of Bute to Lord Mountstuart, even though as recently as April 1778 it had been reported in the press that this ‘amazing fine painting’ had just been installed in Buckingham House.34 After leaving Reynolds’s house – where it may have been undergoing conservation – the portrait of Bute and Jenkinson was transferred to Bute’s country house, Luton Hoo, Bedfordshire, where it is mentioned in 1799 as hanging in the Dining Room.35 Today, it is displayed on the Marble Staircase at Mount Stuart, a poignant reminder of Bute’s brief ministry and his fleeting role in national politics.

When, in April 1763, under intense pressure from his political opponents and the virulent hostility of the populace, Bute resigned his premiership and retired from politics, he turned his attention towards his aesthetic and botanical interests, augmenting his art collection and his private residences in town and country. It was probably around the time, as a form of valediction, that he also commissioned the full length of George III’s mother, Princess Augusta, with whom Bute had enjoyed a strong bond of friendship.36 By 1773, with his new home, Luton Hoo, in the process of completion and after a long absence from London, Bute may have decided to reaffirm his status by commissioning a new full-length ‘public’ portrait, the first in which he was portrayed in Garter robes.37 This time, he turned to Reynolds rather than Ramsay, whose business – other than the replication of royal portraits – had been in decline for a number of years. Even so, while Reynolds was well-versed in compositions of this kind, he was aware of Ramsay’s prowess, not least through the benchmark portraits of Bute and the King. According to John Thomas Smith, whose account appeared in his gossipy series of recollections Nollekens and his Times, it was during sittings by the Marquess of Rockingham for his portrait in the later 1760s that Reynolds had told the sitter how he wished ‘to show a leg with Ramsay’s Lord Bute’.38 At the same time Smith also recounted Bute’s pride over his legs, to the extent that, while posing to Ramsay, he held his robe above his right knee for an hour.39

Reynolds began work on his portrait of Bute in October 1773, the first mention of the painting being in a letter from James Northcote, Reynolds’s pupil and studio assistant, who reported to his brother on 27 October that Bute was ‘sitting to Sir Joshua for a whole-length’.40 More revealing is the letter Northcote sent in mid-December: ‘I have had the honour to copy Lord Bute’s face as there is to be two whole-lengths made of him’.41 Northcote’s communication is the first intimation that Bute had ordered a replica of the portrait, which was by then presumably also well under way. Northcote, who had been working closely with Reynolds for more than two years, also provided a fascinating character sketch of Bute at that time:

He is a tall genteel figure with a mean Scotch face; his skin very yellow and small blue eyes, with a smaile on his face which gives a look of vast good humour and humility. Sir Joshua has made a most extraordinary fine head of him. He must find it very different from the time when he was forced to have bruisers behind his coach to protect him, for now he comes in a chair without any servants and often walks home on foot in his surtout without any state.42

‘Home’ was less than thirty minutes’ walk from Reynolds’s studio in Leicester Square, at 75 South Audley Street, where one of the versions of Bute’s portrait was intended for display. The other was destined for Luton Park, where it was recorded as hanging in the ‘Rough Catalogue’ inventory of c.1799.43

Today, one version of Reynolds’s portrait hangs in the Dining Room at Mount Stuart, alongside other important eighteenth-century family portraits (fig. 10). The other version passed by descent through Lady Bute’s family to the 3rd Earl of Wharncliffe, from whom it was purchased by the National Portrait Gallery, London, in 1958 (fig. 11). Inevitably, the two versions could be ranked according to their pictorial status: an ‘autograph’ original portrait by Reynolds and a studio replica by James Northcote. However, with regard to the clothing, regalia and background, there is little to choose between them, since both compositions would have involved extensive passages executed by studio assistants and probably a professional drapery painter.44 Close comparison between the faces in the two portraits indicates, on stylistic and technical grounds, that the head of the version presently at Mount Stuart is by Reynolds, while the head in the National Portrait Gallery is by James Northcote. Irrespective of that fact, both portraits cost Bute the same price – 150 guineas – and indicated, literally, that they were of equal value and status.45 More significant than relative questions of authorship are the formal differences between the two portraits, which, although similar were distinct in certain details, notably the treatment of the background, the floor and the positioning of the plumed Garter bonnet. These differences, it is suggested here, were determined by the intended locations of the portraits, and the predilections of the patron.

1773. Oil on canvas, 233.7 × 144.8 cm. The Bute Collection at Mount Stuart.

Figure 10.
Joshua Reynolds, John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute, 1773. Oil on canvas, 233.7 × 144.8 cm. The Bute Collection at Mount Stuart.

Digital image courtesy of The Bute Collection at Mount Stuart / Photo: Keith Hunter. (All rights reserved)

1773. Oil on canvas, 236.8 × 144.8 cm. National Portrait Gallery, London (NPG 3938).

Figure 11.
Joshua Reynolds, John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute, 1773. Oil on canvas, 236.8 × 144.8 cm. National Portrait Gallery, London (NPG 3938).

Digital image courtesy of National Portrait Gallery, London. (All rights reserved)

The Order of the Garter constituted an exclusive club with close kinship to the Crown; limited to the Sovereign and twenty-five Knights Companions. As such, it conferred honour above and beyond more transient political favours and appointments. In the wake of Bute’s retirement from politics, Reynolds’s image, located simultaneously in town and country, acted as a constant reminder of Bute’s enduring significance beyond the parameters of political preferment and party politics. In a note written immediately after Bute’s death, Lord Mountstuart recalled the value his father had placed on one particular garter: ‘The one with the flat gold buckle was taken of the King’s leg and put upon my Fathers by the King himself in the closet after the Chapter as a slip of paper in my father’s own hand writing testifies’ (fig. 12).46

The Most Noble Order of the Garter, presented to the 3rd Earl of Bute

Figure 12.
The Most Noble Order of the Garter, presented to the 3rd Earl of Bute,

Digital image courtesy of The Bute Collection at Mount Stuart / Photo: Keith Hunter. (All rights reserved)

There was, as with all public honours, a strict protocol governing the investiture of the Order at St George’s Chapel, Windsor, communicated not only through the regalia itself but how it was conferred. In one of Reynolds’s portraits the Garter bonnet rests on the table, while in the other Bute holds it in his right hand; that gesture recalls a specific moment in the ceremony, when ‘bearing his cap in his hand, which is of black velvet, adorned with a diamond band, and a plume of white feathers, with a heron sprig in the middle, he proceeds to the installation in St. George’s chapel’.47 Bute’s forward movement, identical in both portraits, suggests an element of ceremonial re-enactment as well as animation, the portrait in which he holds the bonnet recalling perhaps the ceremony of investiture as well as a presentation of the regalia. In addition, the incorporation of a landscape background and a carpet in one version, as opposed to a more resolutely interior space with a marbled floor, suggests that Bute may have had specific locations in mind for the two works. Whether the richly patterned floor-covering and landscape background in the National Portrait Gallery portrait were intended to reflect the rural environs of Luton Park and the carpeted saloon in which the picture was displayed must remain open to speculation. We do know, however, that in contrast to the densely hung collection of art works at Luton Park, the pictures in the Bute town house – as Francis Russell has commented – ‘can have had only a very subordinate place’, not least since the walls were adorned with full-length mirrors and painted designs in a ‘style wholly Etruscan’.48 There, possibly the sole painting in a marbled entrance hall, the Mount Stuart portrait would have formed a fitting introduction to Bute’s London residence, as the virtual host ushers in an elite corps of visitors to his opulent and wholly private residence.

Today, owing to its public display context, the version of Bute’s portrait now in the National Portrait Gallery has come to be regarded as emblematic of Reynolds’s official full-length state portraiture. Indeed, it is easy to forget that until comparatively recently neither version of the portrait had been publicly accessible, or subject to any significant scholarly research. Unlike Ramsay’s earlier portrait of Bute, Reynolds’s of Bute was never engraved. Nor has it featured in any earlier literature on the artist, other than a passing reference to the Mount Stuart version in 1838 by the peripatetic German art historian Gustav Waagen.49 Despite being ostensibly ‘public’ images, Reynolds’s two portraits of the 3rd Earl, along with many other works in the Bute collection, remained the sole preserve of family and friends. And, as Bute grew increasingly older, it was not Bute himself but his son and heir, John, Lord Mountstuart, who assumed custodianship of the collection and shaped its display strategy.

Lord Mounstuart and the Bute Collection

John, Lord Mountstuart was born in 1744, the eldest son of the 3rd Earl of Bute, at Mount Stuart. He received an exemplary education at Harrow School, Winchester College and Oxford University, where he was provided with a private tutor. Following studies in the Netherlands and Geneva in the early 1760s he travelled in Italy, for a while with his fellow Scot James Boswell. While in Rome he commissioned a full-length ‘Grand Tour’ portrait by Pompeo Batoni (Mount Stuart).50 Earlier, in Geneva, he had been painted, also at full-length, in pastels by Jean-Étienne Liotard (J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles), while immediately after his return to England in autumn 1765, he was portrayed in a spectacular gold Van Dyck costume, in a reduced scale full-length portrait by Johan Zoffany (Earl of Harrowby, Sandon).51 Together with the portrait which Ramsay had painted of him aged fifteen, wearing the pink costume of a Harrow Archer (Mount Stuart), these portraits reflect a personal flamboyance and a strong aesthetic sense. In adulthood, Mountstuart maintained an active interest in politics, undertaking diplomatic postings in Turin and latterly in Spain, for which he was rewarded with a marquisate in 1796. In terms of art works, Mountstuart’s political role is reflected in a head-and-shoulders portrait by Thomas Gainsborough in parliament robes, commissioned presumably in recognition of his elevation to the House of Lords as Baron Cardiff of Cardiff Castle, which had been conferred on him in 1776. In a more ambitious full-length portrait, commissioned from George Romney in 1783 (fig. 13), Mountstuart was depicted in coronation robes. He also commissioned from Romney a pendant full-length portrait of his wife, Lady Charlotte Mountstuart in court dress. It was through his marriage in 1766 to the Honourable Charlotte Jane Windsor, the daughter of Herbert Hickman Windsor, 2nd Viscount Windsor, that Mountstuart had acquired extensive estates in south Wales, as well as the aforementioned baronetcy.

John, Lord Mountstuart in Coronation Robes

Figure 13.
George Romney, John, Lord Mountstuart in Coronation Robes, 1783. Oil on canvas, 234 × 147.5 cm. The Bute Collection at Mount Stuart.

Digital image courtesy of The Bute Collection at Mount Stuart / Photo: Keith Hunter. (All rights reserved)

With regard to his family’s art collection, Lord Mountstuart’s interest is revealed through a household inventory of Mount Stuart taken in December 1782 following renovation of the house undertaken by James Stuart-Mackenzie, the younger brother of the 3rd Earl. Here, marginalia reveal that forty-one pictures were sent in October 1783 to Lord Mountstuart in London.52 More direct evidence of Mountstuart’s active interest is contained in a list of pictures at Mount Stuart compiled in 1783, in which he appended comments concerning individual works. By this time the works of art retained at Mount Stuart constituted a reserve collection, as more important pictures were located (or relocated) at Luton Hoo, the London residence at South Audley Street or the 3rd Earl’s seaside retreat at Highcliffe, Hampshire. Mount Stuart itself was in a state of disrepair and many of the works listed by Mountstuart were damaged and dirty. Mountstuart’s value judgements clearly reflect, therefore, an interest in potential conservation of the more worthy candidates.53

Around 1791, just before the death of his father, Mountstuart may have turned his attention to the series of state portraits at Mount Stuart, as indicated by two documents, one entitled ‘Account of Portrait Pictures at Mount Stuart 1791’, the other ‘Names of the Portraits at Mountstuart worth inscribing’.54 The documents encapsulate the importance to the display at that time of official family portraiture. Of the fifteen portraits mentioned, ten depicted the sitter clad in special robes or regalia that mark a significant status or honour. The compiler of the ‘Account’ made special note of the honours revealed in the portraits. Ramsay’s portrait of Mountstuart’s father was described as ‘John 3rd Earl of Bute, Knight of the Thistle, coronation robes and key as Groom of the Stole’, while Aikman’s pendant portraits of Mountstuart’s grandparents, the 2nd Earl and Countess of Bute, were depicted ‘in the coronation robes’. His great-uncle, John, 2nd Duke of Argyll and Greenwich, painted by Kneller, was in ‘Garter robes’.55 Archibald, 3rd Duke of Argyll, the second duke’s younger brother, painted by Ramsay, was ‘Lord Justice General’. Additional portraits also showed members of the family by descent and marriage in robes of office: Sir Robert Stuart, Lord Tillicoultrie, painted by Aikman, as noted earlier, was noted to be ‘a Lord of Session’; while Sir George Mackenzie, father to the 1st Countess of Bute – also by Aikman –was ‘Lord Advocate’. Lord Mountstuart himself, in a half-length portrait by Gainsborough, was depicted ‘in Parliament robes’. Thus, the significance of the family in politics, both national and local, was recognised as being worthy of record, via the portraits that hung on the walls of the Scottish family seat. It was following the compilation of the document, we can presume, that the present inscriptions on the relevant portraits were added.

John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute died in South Audley Street, London, on 10 March 1792. Two weeks earlier, Sir Joshua Reynolds had died nearby at his home in Leicester Square. As Lord Mountstuart assumed the title of 4th Earl of Bute, Reynolds’s position as Britain’s leading portraitist was claimed by the young Thomas Lawrence. Around 1800 the 1st Marquess of Bute, as he had become, commissioned full-length official portraits from Lawrence of himself and his second wife, Frances, the daughter of the banker Thomas Coutts.56 However worthy these images are, they are eclipsed entirely by the earlier portrait Lawrence had painted of their son, John, Lord Mountstuart (1767–1794; fig. 14), exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1795, a year after his untimely death in a riding accident. Like his father and grandfather, Mountstuart had travelled extensively in Europe, the portrait recalling, through the exotic garb and dramatic backdrop, his recent sojourn in Spain. Through a startling display of male sensuality – Mountstuart appearing to slither from the waves like some sort of glistening anthropomorphic leviathan – the young artist and sitter had colluded to produce an image that was the antithesis of official public portraiture. And yet it harked back in certain ways to earlier theatrical Bute family portraits, including Aikman’s image of the 3rd Earl in Highland dress and the 4th Earl arrayed as a Harrow Archer. Indeed, in its flaunting of the subject’s well-formed legs, Lawrence’s portrait of Mountstuart was also curiously reminiscent of the 3rd Earl’s conspicuous displays of personal vanity in Ramsay’s and Reynolds’s ceremonial full-lengths.

John, Lord Mountstuart

Figure 14.
Thomas Lawrence, John, Lord Mountstuart, 1795. Oil on canvas, 238.8 × 147.3 cm. The Bute Collection at Mount Stuart.

Digital image courtesy of The Bute Collection at Mount Stuart / Photo: Keith Hunter. (All rights reserved)

Henry Raeburn and the 2nd Marquess of Bute

Following the death of Lord Mountstuart in 1794, his infant son grew up under the care of the 1st Marquess, until his death in Geneva in November 1814. Like his forebears, John Crichton-Stuart, 2nd Marquess of Bute (1793–1848), had a university education and travelled widely in Europe, as well as Scandinavia and Russia. However, unlike his great-grandfather, the 3rd Earl, who effectively abandoned Mount Stuart, the 2nd Marquess made it his home, with occasional forays to his other residences at Dumfries House, Luton Park, his London residence in Kensington and Cardiff Castle in Wales, where he exploited the vast coal resources of his estates and developed Cardiff docks as a commercial hub. Naturally reticent, the 2nd Marquess cared little for his public persona, which was, however, reflected in one significant portrait commissioned from the Scottish artist Henry Raeburn, in 1820 (fig. 15), and exhibited the following year at the Royal Academy.57

John Crichton-Stuart, 2nd Marquess of Bute

Figure 15.
Henry Raeburn, John Crichton-Stuart, 2nd Marquess of Bute, 1821. Oil on canvas, 238.8 × 148 cm. The Bute Collection at Mount Stuart.

Digital image courtesy of The Bute Collection at Mount Stuart / Photo: Keith Hunter. (All rights reserved)

In many ways, Raeburn was an ideal choice for the 2nd Marquess; a resolutely Scottish artist, based solely in Edinburgh, with an uncompromising approach to his art and a demeanour to match. The result was among Raeburn’s most striking male portraits. The subject, standing foursquare on a Bute shoreline against a backdrop of the mountains of Arran, confronts the viewer, dressed in black walking attire and swathed in an enormous tartan cloak which at once shields him from the elements and asserts his nationality. This highly romantic image was the ideal portrait for a man who was more connected to his lands and improvement projects than court life, and whose draped tartan cloak suggests the elevation of this symbol of Scottish identity to a robe of honour. Through Raeburn’s imposing portrait, which now hangs in the company of other Bute portraits by Ramsay, Reynolds, Romney, Gainsborough and Lawrence in the dining room at Mount Stuart, the 2nd Marquess had achieved a sense of pictorial catharsis; and, while other ‘honours’ portraits were by then scattered across various family properties, Raeburn’s image reaffirmed Mount Stuart as the dynasty’s spiritual home.


  • Dr Martin Postle is Deputy Director for Grants and Publications at the Paul Mellon Centre. Between 1998 and 2007 he was Head of British Art to 1900 at Tate. Martin's research and publication interests focus principally on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century British art, including portraiture, landscape and the history of art academies. He has curated exhibitions on a wide range of subjects, including the artist’s model, the Fancy Picture and the art of the garden, as well as monographic exhibitions on Joshua Reynolds, Johan Zoffany, Richard Wilson, Stanley Spencer and George Stubbs. Martin is project leader and commissioning editor of ‘Art & the Country House’, to which he has contributed a number of essays and catalogue entries.

  • Lisa L. Ford is an independent scholar and writer. Lisa received her PhD in 2001 from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland for a dissertation on politics and administration during the reign of Henry VII. In 2002, she joined the Yale Center for British Art as a Postdoctoral Research Associate, and subsequently served as Assistant Director of Research and then as Senior Manager of Special Projects for the Director. She was part of the research team for the AHRC/EPSRC-funded project “Representing Re-Formation: Reconstructing Renaissance Monuments” a study of the 16th and 17th Century tombs of the Howard Dukes of Norfolk, for which she focused on the tomb of Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey. Lisa is currently working on further research which developed from the Howard tombs project, and a book on the visual and material presentation of the insignia of the Order of the Garter.


  1. Ian Gow, 'The First Mount Stuart', in Mount Stuart, Isle of Bute, ed. Andrew McLean, Mount Stuart Trust, 2001, p. 7.

  2. Inventory of Furniture from Lord Bute’s house in Rothesay, delivered to Mrs Stewart, housekeeper, 10 December 1717: Mount Stuart archive, BU/2/21.

  3. The ‘Dutchess of Argyle’ was Elizabeth Tollemache (1659–1735), wife of Archibald Campbell, 1st Duke of Argyll, and mother of Lady Ann Campbell, whose first husband was James Stuart, 2nd Earl of Bute. The Duchess of Argyll’s portrait by Lely is at Ham House, Surrey: National Trust NT 1139957.

  4. Both pictures, of the 1st Earl and Countess, are mentioned in a handwritten list of fifteen family portraits, entitled ‘Account of Portrait Pictures at Mount Stuart 1791’: photocopy, Mount Stuart archive, Mount Stuart 1791b, uncatalogued, original untraced: see Caitlin Blackwell Baines, ‘The Bute Collection: Picture Inventories, Catalogues and Valuations’, no. 6, in this case study.

  5. Clerk was also a major patron of Aikman, his house at Penicuik containing many of his works: see John M. Gray, Notes on the Art Treasures at Penicuik House Midlothian reprinted with large additions from ‘the Scottish Leader’, 1889 (fifty copies privately printed), https://archive.org/stream/notesonarttreasu00gray_0/notesonarttreasu00gray_0_djvu.txt (accessed 6 August 2018).

  6. See James Holloway, William Aikman, 1682–1731, National Gallery of Scotland, 1988; John Ingamells, A Dictionary of British and Irish Travellers in Italy 1701–1800, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1997, p. 11.

  7. For Argyll’s patronage of Aikman see James Holloway, Patrons and Painters: Art in Scotland 1650–1750, exh. cat., Scottish National Portrait Gallery, 1989, ‘William Aikman, James Norie and the Patronage of John, 2nd Duke of Argyll’, pp. 51–61.

  8. Mount Stuart archive, BU/2/13, 3, 6, 7. Ronald Campbell (c.1646–1726) was appointed Writer to the Signet: see A History of Writers to Her Majesty’s Signet with a List of the Members of the Society from 1594 to 1890 and an Abstract of the Minutes, Edinburgh: The Society of Writers to Her Majesty’s Signet, 1890, pp. 34, 341.

  9. Ronald Campbell to 2nd Earl, 19 July 1716, BU/2/13, 6. On 15 August Aikman sent Bute a receipt for £10 2s 6d for payment received from Campbell for ‘Sr Georg McKenzie and the Lord Tillicoutries pictures deliver’d to his Lo[rdsi]p with a packing Box for same’: BU/3/32.

  10. Campbell to 2nd Earl, 30 July 1716, BU/2/13, 7.

  11. Francis Russell, John, 3rd Earl of Bute: Patron and Collector, London: Merrion Press, 2004, p. 5 and n. 2.

  12. A version of Fraser’s portrait is on loan to the National Galleries Scotland, PGL 276. Another version is located in the courtroom of the Tolbooth in Forres, near Inverness.

  13. The European Magazine and London Review, vol. 25, March 1794, pp. 175–7.

  14. L. Cust and A. M. Hind, ‘The Notebooks of George Vertue relating to Artists and Collections in England’, Notebook III, The Walpole Society, XXII, 1933–34, p. 96, cited in Alastair Smart, ed. John Ingamells, Allan Ramsay: A Complete Catalogue of his Paintings, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1999, p. 71.

  15. Ramsay’s portrait of the 2nd Duke of Argyll is in the collection of the Trustees of the Tenth Duke of Argyll: see Smart, 1999, p. 71, no. 10.

  16. Ramsay had made a preliminary sketch for composition on 12 October 1757, when the Prince had sat to him at Kew Palace (National Gallery of Scotland, D 242): see Smart, 1999, pp. 111 and 390, fig. 670.

  17. Archibald Bothwell (1699–1750), who acted as the 3rd Earl’s agent over the production of the collar, remarks that he has kept the large cornelian that Bute ‘pitch’d upon’ and comments on the Earl’s apparent order regarding the insignia, that he is looking for an onyx for him. He also comments on the work required and its cost if Bute wants both the collar and motto: Bothwell to Bute, 18 September 1738, Mount Stuart archive, BU98/1/4. For background on the Garter, see Peter J. Begent and Hubert Chesshyre, The Most Noble Order of the Garter: 650 Years with a Foreword by His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh KG ; and a Chapter on the Statutes of the Order by Lisa Jefferson, London: Spink, 1999. For summaries of both the Thistle and the Garter, see Antti Matikkala, The Orders of Knighthood and the Formation of the British Honours System, 1660–1760, Woodbridge and Rochester, N.Y: Boydell Press, 2008, pp. 77–87, 109–54. Garter membership in this period was confined to 25 Knights and the Sovereign; the Thistle was limited to 12 Knights and the Sovereign.

  18. Smart, 1999, p. 73, no. 16. Smart notes that the portrait of the 3rd Duke of Argyll, together with other Ramsay portraits he commissioned, was destined for Luton Park at this time (late 1750s). However, they would not have been transferred there until at least the early to mid-1770s, when the completed house was being furnished.

  19. According to Smart the full-length portrait was ‘once reduced to a bust-length 30 x 25 and made up again, wearing Court dress, with the collar of the Thistle’ (ibid., p. 84). However, it seems more likely that the smaller canvas was simply enlarged, as was often the case with such commissions, not least when the head was painted outside the artist’s studio.

  20. See Russell, 2004, p. 229.

  21. Earl of Shelburne to Bute, [n.d.] July 1761, Mount Stuart archive, BU/100/33.

  22. Allan Ramsay to Bute, 19 December 1761, BU/98/6/718. See also Smart, 1999, p. 85, no. 69b; Russell, 2004, p. 231.

  23. See Smart, 1999, p. 85, no. 69f. Weston lived at Somerby Hall, Lincolnshire and was buried in the nearby parish church, where a monument to Weston and his wife was erected in 1770. The house was demolished in 1964.

  24. See Alastair Smart, The Life and Art of Allan Ramsay, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1952, pp. 112–17; Alastair Smart, Allan Ramsay: Painter, Essayist and Man of the Enlightenment, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1992, pp. 156–9..

  25. See Frederick Stevens and Dorothy M. George, Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires preserved in the Department of Prints and Drawings in the British Museum, 11 vols, London: British Museum, 1870–1954, vol. 4 (1761–1770), For a summary of the satirical prints relating to Bute see pp. lxx–lxxxi.

  26. Except for members of the royal family, it was not usual for both the Thistle and the Garter to be held at once, and the expectation was that Thistle holders would resign the honour when elevated to the Garter: George E. Cokayne, The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom, Extant, Extinct, or Dormant, 14 vols, London: St. Catherine Press, 1910–59, vol. 1, p. 16 note (d).

  27. The Middlesex Journal or Chronicle of Liberty, 14–17 October 1769; see also William , Artists and their Friends in England 1700–1799, 2 vols, London and Boston: Medici Society, 1928, vol. 1, p. 252.

  28. Malcolm Cormack, ‘The Ledgers of Sir Joshua Reynolds’, The Walpole Society, vol. 42, 1968–70, p. 111; David Mannings and Martin Postle, Sir Joshua Reynolds: A Complete Catalogue of his Paintings, 2 vols, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2000, vol. 1, p. 437. There is also a bill from Reynolds to the King for £210, dated 1 December 1763: Royal Archives, Windsor, Bute archive reference, Geo. MSS 17111.

  29. See St James’s Chronicle or the British Evening Post, 4–6 August 1763; Lloyd’s Evening Post, 5–8 August 1763; London Evening Post, 6–9 August 1763.

  30. For an extended reading of Reynolds’s portrait in its political context see Douglas Fordham, British Art and the Seven Years’ War: Allegiance and Autonomy, Philadelphia and Oxford: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010, pp. 171–82.

  31. Fresnoy, Middlesex Journal, 14–17 October 1769.

  32. The Morning Herald and Daily Advertiser, Monday 11 April 1785. ‘The Marquis of Buckingham’ was George Grenville, Earl Temple, a current royal favourite who was created 1st Marquess of Buckingham on 4 December 1784. Reynolds’s group portrait of Buckingham with his wife and son, 1780–82, is in the National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin.

  33. Mannings and Postle, 2000, vol. 1, p. 437, no. 1722; see also Whitley, 1928, vol. 1, pp. 253–4.

  34. The Morning Post, 17 April 1778; see Smart, 1999, p. 84, no. 69.

  35. ‘The late Earl of Bute when first Lord of the Treasury with his private Secretary Charles Jenkinson now Earl of Liverpool. This picture was originally painted for Alexander Earl of Eglintoune, and afterwards taken by His Majesty George the Third, who bestowed it on the present Lord Bute in 1783’. The picture is recorded in the Dining Room, at the ‘Bottom of the Room’: see ‘Rough Catalogue of Pictures, Luton Park’, c.1799, Mount Stuart archive, uncatalogued, f. 2.

  36. Smart, 1999, pp. 74–5, no. 21.

  37. While Bute was on an extended visit to Venice in the intervening years, he adopted the name Sir John Stuart and left off wearing the Garter Star: Anthony Crichton-Stuart and Christian Tico Seifert, Masterpieces from Mount Stuart: The Bute Collection, exh. cat., Edinburgh: National Galleries of Scotland, 2012, p. 15.

  38. John Thomas Smith, Nollekens and his Times, 2 vols, London: Henry Colburn, 1828, vol. 2, p. 296. In the opinion of Ellis Waterhouse, Reynolds may in fact have been thinking of his earlier portrait of James Maitland, 7th Earl of Lauderdale, which was painted earlier, in 1759: E. K. Waterhouse, Painting in Britain 1530–1790, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1953; rev. 4th edn 1978, p. 222.

  39. Smith, 1828, vol. 2, p. 295.

  40. James Northcote to Samuel Northcote, 27 October 1773: Whitley, 1928, vol. 2, p. 295.

  41. James Northcote to Samuel Northcote, 15 December 1773, ibid.

  42. Ibid., pp. 295–6.

  43. By c.1799 Reynolds’s portrait of Bute is recorded as hanging above one of the chimneypieces in the Saloon at Luton Hoo. Reynolds’s full-length portrait of Lady Bute, painted 1777–9, then hung above the other chimneypiece: See Caitlin Blackwell Baines, transcription, 'Rough catalogue of Pictures Luton Park', pp. 12, 16.

  44. Northcote was then employed to paint drapery in Reynolds’s portraits, as was his long-term studio assistant, Giuseppe Marchi (1735–1808). He also used the services of professional drapery painters, notably Peter Toms RA (1726–1777).

  45. Reynolds recorded two payments of 150 guineas in his ledger on 25 October 1780: Cormack, 1968–70, p. 146; Mannings and Postle, 2000, vol. 1, p. 437.

  46. Lord Mountstuart, 4th Earl of Bute, ‘Account of the Badges belonging to my Father the Earl of Bute, taken Monday 2d April 1792’: Mount Stuart archive, BU/20/17/138.

  47. The British Chronologist, 2 vols, London: G. Kearsley, 1775, vol. 2, p. 107.

  48. Russell, 2004, p. 175.

  49. ‘Lastly, of the English school, there are here portraits of the minister Lord Bute and his Lady, and also that of the same nobleman with his secretary, by SIR JOSHUA REYNOLDS. They are very advantageously distinguished by solidity of treatment, spirited conception, and powerful colouring’: G. F. Waagen, Works of Art and Artists in England, 3 vols, London: John Murray, 1838, vo1. 3, pp. 376–7; see also G. F. Waagen, Treasures of Art of Great Britain: Being an Account of the Chief Collections of Paintings, Drawings, Sculptures, Illuminated MSS, &c &c, 3 vols, London: John Murray, 1854, vol. 3, p. 485, with minor textual variations.

  50. Edgar Peters Bowron, Pompeo Batoni: A Complete Catalogue of his Paintings, 2 vols, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2016, vol. 2, pp. 392–4, no. 315.

  51. For Liotard see Marcel Roethlisberger and Renée Loche, Liotard: Catalogue Sources et Correspondance, 2 vols, Beukenlaan, Netherlands: Davaco Publishers, 2008, vol. 1, cat. 421, pp. 560–64; vol. 2, fig. 614. For Zoffany see Mary Webster, Johan Zoffany 1733–1810, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2011, p. 130, fig. 122.

  52. Mount Stuart archive, BU/15/7.

  53. ‘List of the Pictures at Mountstuart house with My Lord Mountstuarts Remarks thereon 16th Augt 1783’, Mount Stuart archive, uncatalogued. As has been noted, the document was not written by Mountstuart but transcribed by his factor, Alexander May: see Blackwell Baines, ‘Bute Collection: Picture Inventories’, no. 4.

  54. ‘Account of Portrait Pictures at Mount Stuart 1791’: see n. 4 above; ‘Names of the Portraits at Mountstuart worth inscribing’, Mount Stuart archive, Mount Stuart 1791a, uncatalogued: see Blackwell Baines, ‘Bute Collection: Picture Inventories’, nos 6 and 5 respectively.

  55. 'Account of the Portrait Pictures at Mount Stuart', Blackwell Baines, 'Bute Collection: Picture Inventories'

  56. See Kenneth Garlick, Sir Thomas Lawrence: A Complete Catalogue of the Oil Paintings, Oxford: Phaidon, 1989, pp. 160–1, nos 147c and 148. Garlick considered the Marquess’s portrait to be largely studio work. He states that the pair may be the portraits priced each at £126, listed in the early accounts left by Lawrence at Coutts bank. In addition, he lists a head-and-shoulders portrait of the Marquess (no. 147a), previously belonging to the Burdett-Coutts family, and another unfinished head-and shoulders-portrait of the same sitter (no. 147b), which is also in the Mount Stuart collection.

  57. See Duncan Thomson, The Art of Sir Henry Raeburn 1756–1823, exh. cat., Edinburgh: Scottish National Portrait Gallery, 1997, pp. 182–4, no. 60.



by Martin Postle and Lisa Ford
20 November 2020
House Essay
CC BY-NC International 4.0
Cite as
Martin Postle, Lisa Ford, "Honours and Insignia: Georgian Portraiture at Mount Stuart", Art and the Country House, https://doi.org/10.17658/ACH/MSE545