‘Rough Catalogue of Pictures, Luton Park’: Mount Stuart Introduction

Essay by Caitlin Blackwell Baines


The core of the Bute Collection is a large group of important European old master paintings and British portraits acquired by John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute (1713–1792) and his son, John Stuart, 1st Marquess of Bute (1744–1814) in the second half of the eighteenth century. For a seventy-year period, this collection was housed not at Mount Stuart, the family’s ancestral home in Scotland, but at Luton Hoo, a Bedfordshire country house purchased by the 3rd Earl in 1763 and renovated by the neo-classical architect Robert Adam between about 1763 and 1773. Although the house was left partially incomplete until 1830, Luton was inhabited from the early 1770s and served as the primary repository for the Bute art collection until a fire in 1843. After this, the estate was sold and the art works were dispersed to family properties in England, Scotland and Wales.

At its height, around the turn of the eighteenth century, the Luton collection contained more than five hundred paintings, which were meticulously recorded in a series of documents now preserved in the Bute Archive at Mount Stuart. There are five extant manuscript catalogues of pictures at Luton, dating to about 1799 (two), 1800, 1802 and 1822, as well as several loose pages of notes, corrections and addenda, indicating that the project to document the art collection was considered a significant undertaking, requiring an extensive editorial process.1 Given that there is no extant catalogue dating to the 3rd Earl’s lifetime, and that many of the annotated comments and corrections appear to be in the hand of his son, it seems likely that the project was the initiative of the 1st Marquess. However, Francis Russell has speculated that the surviving documents may have been based on an earlier untraced catalogue dating from the 3rd Earl’s time.2

The most comprehensive of the five surviving catalogues is an undated manuscript inscribed ‘Rough Catalogue of Pictures, Luton Park’ (Luton 1799a), comprising thirty-three folded, unbound sheets, some bearing the watermark ‘J WILLIAMS 1797’. It was composed by an unidentified scribe with additional annotations in the hand of the 1st Marquess. It lists 517 paintings in 23 rooms in a sequence beginning in the entrance Hall on the ground floor and ending in the Gallery of Communications on the upper storey. Each entry includes an attributed artist, a position within the room (‘above door’, ‘opposite chimney uppermost’ and so on) and a visual description. While some pictures are given only basic identification (‘a landscape’), others are afforded lengthier entries, with critical and descriptive commentary. There is also an addendum at the back of the manuscript containing extended descriptions of three pictures which were evidently deemed to be of particular value: Venus and Cupid attributed to Guido Reni, The Holy Family attributed to Bartolomeo Schedoni and “Virgin & Child, with an angel gathering Fruit” attributed to Domenico Feti.3

The inscription on the covering page of the catalogue indicates that this was a draft for a more finished volume; however, it is unclear when it was produced and whether or not a final version actually exists.4 Russell has assigned a date of about 1799, hypothesising that it predated a major re-hang that took place at the turn of the century, which is documented in the ‘List of the Pictures at Luton, as they were in January, 1800’ (Luton 1800), a leather-bound volume composed by the 1st Marquess himself, listing 410 pictures in twenty rooms. There is also an abridged ‘List of the Luton Pictures’ (Luton 1799b), a leather-bound volume with the date 1799 engraved on the spine, which lists only 168 pictures and no room locations; and the ‘Catalogue of Pictures at Luton Park 1802’ (Luton 1802), a ribbon-bound manuscript listing 276 pictures in 14 rooms. The latter appears to be in the same hand as the ‘Rough Catalogue’, which is identified in the 1802 document (in a note made by the 1st Marquess) as that of ‘Miss Kennedy Daughter of Kennedy of Dennure’ – possibly Grizel Kennedy, the daughter of Thomas Kennedy of Dunure, Lord Rector of the University of Glasgow, and his of wife Jane Adam, the niece of Robert Adam.5

Although none of the volumes dating from 1799 to 1802 directly correspond with the ‘Rough Catalogue’ – and in fact no two are the same in terms of picture number or order – they are all closely related and in some cases catalogue entries are duplicated verbatim (or near-verbatim) in all four volumes. There is also one further catalogue which was produced in the time of John Crichton-Stuart, 2nd Marquess of Bute (1793–1848), the 1st Marquess’s grandson: ‘Luton Hoo, Catalogue Raisonné à l’usage des amateur 1822’ (Luton 1822), a leather-bound volume listing 303 pictures in 17 rooms, which is distinct from the earlier documents, containing unique catalogue entries. It was compiled at some point before the Christie’s auction of 7–8 June 1822, which saw the sale of some 200 paintings.

Regardless of whether it is, in fact, the earliest surviving document, the ‘Rough Catalogue’ offers the most complete record of the Luton picture collection around the turn of the century, documenting the greatest number of pictures in the greatest number of rooms. Moreover, while it is often difficult to distinguish the acquisitions of the 3rd Earl from those of the 1st Marquess, and to determine who was responsible for particular display choices, the ‘Rough Catalogue’ provides many insights into the collecting tastes of the eighteenth-century Bute patriarchs, and illustrates their often idiosyncratic curatorial decisions. For example, it reveals the unusually high quality of paintings displayed on the bedroom floor.6 Several of the ‘star pieces’ of the collection – including Claude’s Morning and Evening, Cuyp’s landscapes with cattle and Rembrandt’s Usurer examining Gold – hung in dressing rooms on the upper storey.7 Additionally, contrary to popular convention, the ‘Picture Cabinet’, containing many finely detailed, small-scale virtuosic works, could also be found in this ostensibly private quarter of the house. This may have reflected the fact that, unlike other comparable country-house picture collections of the period, Luton was relatively inaccessible to visitors, owing to the 3rd Earl’s reclusive nature. As such, there may have been less distinction between public and private spaces.8

What is perhaps most apparent from the ‘Rough Catalogue’ is the decided emphasis on works from the Dutch and Flemish school, the area for which the Bute Collection remains the best known today. There are approximately 245 Netherlandish works listed, with some 110 works from the Italian school representing the secondary focus of the collection. In particular, the earl (and/or his son) seems to have favoured the Dutch Italianate school as represented by Aelbert Cuyp (9), Nicholas Berchem (7) and Jan Both (1); and the work of the Leiden fijnschilder as represented by Gerrit Dou (3), Frans van Mieris (3), Gabriel Metsu (2) and others. The largest group of pictures by a single artist is that by the Flemish painter Jan Brueghel the Elder (13). In Italian art, the Butes gravitated towards Venetian artists such as Tintoretto (3), Paolo Veronese (1) and Francesco Zuccarelli (8). In these areas of strength, the Luton collection was reasonably distinct among English collections of the time and may have influenced others, including those of the Prince Regent and the Marquess of Hertford.9 Further analysis of the contents and display of the Luton collection as documented in the ‘Rough Catalogue’ can be found in my study in this project, ‘The Bute Collection and its Houses: A Historical Overview’, as well as in the earlier work of Russell and others.10


  • Caitlin Blackwell Baines is an independent art historian, specialising in Georgian art and visual culture. Born in Toronto, Canada, Caitlin completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Western Ontario shortly before coming to the United Kingdom in 2007. She completed a Master’s degree at the Courtauld Institute of Art (2008) and a PhD at the University of York (2014). From 2015–2019, she worked at Mount Stuart on the Isle of Bute, serving as Inaugural Bute Fellow, and later, Research Curator. Her recent publications include Art of Power: Masterpieces from the Bute Collection at Mount Stuart (Prestel, 2017) and 20 Masterpieces at Mount Stuart (Scala, 2020). Caitlin’s current research project focuses on the Beaumont family art collection at Bywell Hall, Northumberland. For this, she received a Paul Mellon Centre Research Continuity Grant. She is also now working on a popular non-fiction book on the cultural history of ‘haunted houses’. Other research interests include eighteenth-century graphic satire, costume, material culture, and the social history of country houses.


  1. See Luton 1799a and b, Luton 1800, Luton 1802 and Luton 1822 in Caitlin Blackwell, ‘The Bute Collection: Picture Inventories, Catalogues and Valuations’, in this project. For notes, corrections, addenda etc see 1799c and d in ibid.

  2. Francis Russell, John, 3rd Earl of Bute: Patron and Collector, London: Merrion Press, 2004, p. 194.

  3. The Reni is now untraced but was still in the collection as late as 1883 when it was displayed at the Bethnal Green Branch Museum exhibition of Bute paintings (no. 21); the Schedoni was sold at Christie’s, London, 3 July 1996 (lot 133, attributed to Giovanni Battista Spinelli); the Feti remains in the collection (B 00118).

  4. In the MS archives, there is a bundle of loose pages which have seemingly been removed from a now lost bound catalogue of Luton pictures; the ‘Rough’ catalogue may have preceded this untraced volume: see Luton 1799d in Blackwell, ‘Bute Collection: Picture Inventories’.

  5. Thomas Kennedy of Dunure (1759–1819) was the eldest son Sir Thomas Kennedy of Kirkhill, Lord Provost of Edinburgh. He resided at Dalquharran Castle, a castellated manor house in Ayrshire, designed for him by his wife’s uncle, Robert Adam, in the 1780s. There is extensive extant correspondence between Kennedy and the 1st Marquess: see for example BU/185/12, 1–3, 18, 27, 29–30.

  6. Russell was the first to observe this: Russell, 2004, p. 196.

  7. Claude, Morning and Evening (B 00337, B 00340) hung in the East Bow Window Dressing Room; Cuyp, Cattle watering by an Estuary (B 00331) and A Horse, Cattle and a Cowherd resting in a Landscape (B 00334) were in the North Green Dressing Room; Rembrandt, Usurer examining Gold Coins by Candlelight (or The Parable of the Rich Man, now in the Gemäldegalerie, Berlin) was in the North Blue Dressing Room.

  8. I explore this idea further in ‘“Beyond expectation, beyond hope”: The Third Earl of Bute’s Picture Collection at Luton Hoo’, in Caitlin Blackwell, Art of Power: Masterpieces from the Bute Collection at Mount Stuart, exh. cat., Hunterian Art Gallery, Glasgow, London: Prestel, 2017, pp. 31–3.

  9. Anthony Crichton-Stuart, ‘The Bute Collection’, in Tico Seifert, Masterpieces from Mount Stuart: The Bute Collection, exh. cat., Edinburgh: National Galleries Scotland, 2012, p. 7.

  10. See for example Russell, 2004, pp. 193–9; Peter Black, ‘Quality and Quantity: Bute and the Collecting of Dutch Paintings’, in Art of Power, pp. 56–71; Blackwell, ‘“Beyond expectation, beyond hope”’, pp. 14–37.



by Caitlin Blackwell Baines
20 November 2020
House Essay
CC BY-NC International 4.0
Cite as
Caitlin Blackwell Baines, "‘Rough Catalogue of Pictures, Luton Park’: Mount Stuart Introduction", Art and the Country House, https://doi.org/10.17658/ACH/MSE542