The Bute Collection and its Houses: A Historical Overview

Essay by Caitlin Blackwell Baines


One of the largest privately owned collections of art in Britain, the Bute Collection contains more than six hundred paintings, ranging from Cinquecento Italian religious works to seventeenth-century Dutch genre subjects to Georgian Grand Manner portraits. The collection was amassed over three centuries by members of the Stuart (later Crichton-Stuart) family, the earls and marquesses of Bute. Remarkably, it has survived two serious house fires and the depredations of several significant auction sales, still retaining many of the earliest eighteenth-century acquisitions. Today, the collection is housed at Mount Stuart, the family’s ancestral seat on the western Scottish Isle of Bute. Although the contents of the house, including the paintings, remain in the possession of the current marquess, the building itself is now operated by a charitable trust and has been open to the public since 1995.

The present Mount Stuart is a monumental redbrick neo-Gothic structure, designed by Sir Robert Rowan Anderson to replace the original Georgian edifice largely destroyed by fire in 1877. Fusing medieval fantasy with modern technology, Mount Stuart is distinguished by its opulent interiors created by leading Victorian designers, including William Burges and H. W. Lonsdale, and state of the art nineteenth-century mod cons, such as electric lighting, a passenger lift and, purportedly, the world’s first heated indoor swimming pool. This architectural extravagance was the brainchild of the eccentric millionaire polymath John Patrick Crichton-Stuart, 3rd Marquess of Bute (1847–1900), who was at that time one of the richest men in the world. Once christened ‘the best unprofessional architect of his generation,’1 the 3rd Marquess of Bute was involved in some sixty building projects, including another of Britain’s greatest neo-Gothic palaces, Cardiff Castle.2 Bute was clearly a passionate patron of the arts and, in particular, a keen supporter of the Gothic Revival movement in architecture. Yet he seems to have shown little interest in painting. Unlike other members of his connoisseurial family, the 3rd Marquess made few painting purchases and neglected to sit for a fashionable portraitist. Thus, somewhat ironically, the man responsible for the modern Mount Stuart made almost no impact on the collection of pictures that presently adorns its walls.

As is often the case with country house art collections, the history of the Bute Collection and its relationship with its modern setting is far from straightforward or static. Significantly, there have always been paintings at Mount Stuart and, indeed, it was the construction of the original Georgian seat that seems to have been the catalyst for the formation of the collection. However, in its present form, the Bute Collection is made up of multiple composite parts which were built up and moved from several different family properties in England, Scotland and Wales over a period of nearly three hundred years. Like most hereditary collections, it developed and evolved according to changing fortunes, dynastic marriages and the individual proclivities of particular family members.

Hitherto, what little has been written about the Bute Collection has centred on the figure of John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute (1713–1792), the first Scottish-born Prime Minister and confidante of King George III. After his ignominious fall from grace and retirement from political office in 1763, the 3rd Earl retreated to his grand Bedfordshire estate, Luton Hoo, which was subsequently renovated by Robert Adam, in part to house the earl’s growing art collection. By the end of the century, there were about five hundred paintings at Luton, including some of the finest seventeenth-century Dutch and Flemish works in the nation. In 2017, the earl and his collection were the focus of a major exhibition, publication and academic conference jointly hosted by Mount Stuart and the Hunterian Art Gallery, Glasgow.3 This most recent scholarship built on the important groundwork laid by Francis Russell in his 2004 biography, John, 3rd Earl of Bute: Patron and Collector, the most in-depth study of the Bute Collection to date.4

It could be argued that the 3rd Earl made the most significant impact on the Bute Collection, which today retains more than two hundred paintings believed to be his personal acquisitions. Less attention, however, has been paid to other family members who made their own valuable contributions – not least the earl’s son, John Stuart, 1st Marquess of Bute (1744–1814), who seems to have served as a kind of honorary cataloguer and custodian of the collection even before the death of his father in 1792; and his great-great-great grandson, John Crichton-Stuart, 4th Marquess of Bute (1881–1947), who, in addition to acquiring Dutch masterpieces in keeping with the original collection, also acquired notable Tudor panel portraits and English sporting art in the first half of the twentieth century. This essay and the others which comprise the Mount Stuart case study will touch on some of these lesser-known figures and facets of the collection.

The story behind the formation of the Bute Collection is a lengthy and complex one which has not yet been exhaustively researched or retold. Helping to piece together this narrative is a vast trove of relevant documents in the Mount Stuart archives, which include the personal correspondence of the collectors, as well as household inventories, valuations and picture lists documenting the locations of paintings in more than a dozen Bute family properties, over a period of nearly three centuries.5 There is at once an overwhelming wealth of extant material and notable gaps in the records, leaving many as yet unanswered questions about the exact provenance and movements of the paintings over the years. Much is still to be gleaned from the available sources and, it is hoped, much more to be rediscovered. As such, this study will simply serve as a historical overview of the collection, primarily focusing on three of the significant phases in its development: the foundation of the collection at Mount Stuart (c.1718–1876); the apogee of the collection at Luton Hoo (c.1763–1843); and an itinerant phase at which time paintings were transferred from various family properties before the collection was finally amalgamated at Mount Stuart in 1993 (c.1848–1993).

The First Mount Stuart: Dynastic Portraiture and the Origins of the Bute Collection (c.1716–1876)

Mount Stuart, in its earliest incarnation, dates to the early eighteenth century. However, the Stuart (or Stewart) family – whose name derives from the ancient high office of Steward of Scotland – have ties to the Isle of Bute stretching back more than six hundred years. The family can trace their lineage to one John Stewart, natural-born son of Robert II of Scotland, who in 1385 was granted the hereditary Shrievalty of Bute, Arran and Cumrae. By the late fifteenth century, the family had acquired the additional honour of hereditary Keepership of Rothesay Castle, a favourite royal residence and strategic stronghold during the Wars of Scottish Independence. The Stuarts resided in this crumbling eleventh-century fortress until it was burnt down during the Monmouth Rebellion in 1685 by the forces of Archibald Campbell, 9th Earl of Argyll. From here, the Stuarts moved to a comparatively modest townhouse nearby, latterly known as the Old Mansion House (built c.1680), which quickly proved ill-suited for the increasingly prominent family. In 1703, James Stuart, 3rd Baronet of Bute (1666–1710) was granted the earldom in recognition of his support of the Act of Union; then his son, James, 2nd Earl of Bute (1696–1723), further elevated the family’s status in 1711 by marrying Lady Anne Campbell, progeny of the powerful Duke of Argyll (and, ironically, the granddaughter of the Campbell responsible for destroying the Stuart family’s former abode). It was the 2nd Earl of Bute who elected to build a new, more suitably grand family home on a verdant, 300-acre estate on the south-east coast of the island.

The first Mount Stuart – the only remnants of which are the white harl wings flanking the central block of the current house – was designed by the Edinburgh architect Alexander McGill. Drawings by McGill (fig. 1) dating to August 1716 show an austere classical structure composed of seven bays, with two storeys on the entrance front and three storeys on the garden front, facing the Firth of Clyde. The resulting construction, built 1718–22, was elegant yet practical, if somewhat unimaginative. By the following generation, the house was already slightly outmoded but, for the purposes of the 2nd Earl, it was the ideal expression of his noble status and dynastic importance. A key component of this expression was the inclusion, in McGill’s designs, of a Long Gallery on the third floor – a conventional feature of the British country house, designed for the display of portraits of ancestors, family members, friends and allies, illustrating the homeowner’s illustrious heritage and personal network. The origins of the Bute Collection lay in this traditional form of art collecting and display.

Mount Stuart elevation

Figure 1.
Alexander McGill, Mount Stuart elevation, 1716. Drawing. The Bute Collection at Mount Stuart.

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

While we do not know for certain what originally hung at Mount Stuart, it is likely to have been the series of family portraits that the 2nd Earl was in the process of assembling just as the plans for his new house were being prepared. In early 1716, he commissioned a number of pictures from the prominent Scottish portraitist William Aikman.6 These were primarily posthumous portraits and copies of the earl’s ancestors, including a half-length of the late 1st Earl of Bute (fig. 2), which was at some point enlarged to a full-length, as well as half-lengths of the earl’s maternal grandfather, Sir George Mackenzie and paternal great-uncle, Sir Robert Stuart of Tillicoultrie. A bill for the last two canvases was dated 15 August 1716, making them exactly contemporary with McGill’s drawings.7

circa 1716. Oil on canvas, 213.4 × 146.1 cm. The Bute Collection at Mount Stuart.

Figure 2.
William Aikman, James, 1st Earl of Bute, circa 1716. Oil on canvas, 213.4 × 146.1 cm. The Bute Collection at Mount Stuart.

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

Over the next few years, as the plans for his new home progressed, the earl’s art collection continued to expand with portraits of his living family members, including a full-length of his five-year-old son, the future 3rd Earl, by the now obscure London artist Jane Howard,8 and half-lengths of the 2nd Earl and his wife (figs 3 and 4), traditionally attributed to Sir Godfrey Kneller, which were likewise later enlarged into full-lengths.9 The 2nd Earl also seems to have returned to Aikman for further commissions, possibly for two additional half-lengths of himself and the Countess of Bute (untraced) and a three-quarter-length portrait of his sister-in-law, Jane Warburton, Duchess of Argyll and Greenwich. Moreover, in addition to these contemporary works, he may have also acquired portraits through inheritance or marriage, such as the picture of his wife’s great-aunt, Lady Ann Kerr, Countess of Home, attributed to the circle of Cornelius Johnson.

circa 1710–23. Oil on canvas, 241.3 × 144.8 cm. The Bute Collection at Mount Stuart.

Figure 3.
Circle of William Aikman (previously attributed to Sir Godfrey Kneller), James, 2nd Earl of Bute, circa 1710–23. Oil on canvas, 241.3 × 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)

circa 1710–23. Oil on canvas, 236.2 × 144.8 cm. The Bute Collection at Mount Stuart.

Figure 4.
Circle of William Aikman (previously attributed to Sir Godfrey Kneller), Anne Campbell, Countess of Bute, circa 1710–23. 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)

In January 1723, the 2nd Earl of Bute died a young man, leaving behind a nine-year-old heir, a recently completed family seat and among other possessions, a modest picture collection. This collection was recorded in a now lost inventory made in April of that year. Fortuitously, a copy of the list was prepared on the occasion of the 3rd Earl’s coming of age in 1734 and this document survives as the earliest record of the Bute Collection of paintings (Mount Stuart 1723). It lists (in varying degrees of detail) 54 paintings, at least 10 of which remain in the collection today. Unsurprisingly, 38 of these works are portraits, almost all of them Bute family relations, apart from notable exceptions like the Duchess of Orleans attributed to Sir Peter Lely, a supposed self-portrait of Sir Peter Paul Rubens and an anonymous portrait of George I, probably signifying the family’s anti-Jacobite affiliations.10 While future generations added significantly to this original collection, Mount Stuart largely remained a repository for dynastic portraiture for the next two centuries.

The 2nd Earl’s heir, John Stuart, was probably the most prolific collector of paintings in the family. Today, nearly every room in Mount Stuart contains pictures once owned by the 3rd Earl of Bute, with the grand state rooms on the main floor essentially serving as galleries for the star pieces in his collection. The Drawing Room (fig. 5) showcases his assemblage of Italian old masters, while the Dining Room (fig. 6) enshrines his important suite of royal and family portraits by Allan Ramsay, the celebrated Scottish portraitist whom the earl helped to obtain the title of Painter in Ordinary to the King.11 Significantly, however, few if any of these paintings were originally intended for Mount Stuart. Rather, the vast majority of the earl’s acquisitions were purchased long after his brief residency on Bute, were initially displayed at Luton Hoo and, in many cases, did not arrive at the family seat in Scotland until the late twentieth century. Nevertheless, there is evidence to show that the painting collection at Mount Stuart did indeed expand during the 3rd Earl’s lifetime.

The Drawing Room

Figure 5.
The Drawing Room, Mount Stuart.

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

The Dining Room

Figure 6.
The Dining Room, Mount Stuart.

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

Bute spent the majority of his youth away from Scotland. He was first educated at Eton and later attended the Universities of Groningen and Leiden in Holland, finally returning to his homeland in 1734. Two years later, he married Mary Wortley Montagu, the daughter of the wealthy Yorkshire landowner Edward Wortley Montagu and of the noted aristocratic writer Lady Mary Pierrepont. The couple then spent the first decade of marriage at Mount Stuart. Not yet in the financial position to fund architectural patronage and art collecting on a significant scale, during this period the earl made only minor alterations to the house, some significant improvements to the grounds and may have added to his father’s art collection, though we lack any concrete evidence.12 By 1746, the earl and his family had relocated to Cane Wood House (later Kenwood) in Hampstead, then north of London, where Bute was better positioned to pursue a career as a courtier and politician. He never returned to Mount Stuart.

In his indefinite absence, the earl’s brother, James Stuart-Mackenzie, and Bute’s eldest son, John, Lord Mountstuart (the future 1st Marquess), served as caretakers of the family seat, periodically supervising everything from interior decoration to agricultural affairs.13 Given their active roles on the estate after Bute’s departure, it is not exactly clear who was responsible for painting purchases at Mount Stuart in the decades following the death of the 2nd Earl; however, it is clear that the art collection was growing. The earliest household inventory to include paintings dates to November 1764, and lists 86 pictures in 12 rooms.14 Although sadly lacking identifying details, the list demonstrates that, since the 2nd Earl’s death, the collection had increased by a third and that the bulk of the pictures were displayed in the central block of the house – 50 pictures in the bedrooms, dressing rooms and Library on the third floor, another 25 spread between the Gallery and Dining Room on the ground floor, while the wings of the house (mainly closets, kitchens and servants’ quarters) were more sparsely adorned with prints.

The first inventory to describe paintings in any significant detail dates to December 1782, taken ‘immediately after the House had been repaired and the Furniture arranged according to Instructions from the Lord Privy Seal [Stuart-Mackenzie] and Lady Betty Mackenzie’ (Mount Stuart 1782). There were 93 paintings listed in 14 rooms. The collection was still predominantly portraiture, with 66 in total, many of them family portraits prominently displayed in the ground-floor Gallery and a new first-floor Drawing Room. But there were also a number of landscapes, still-life and genre subjects, including the identifiable pair of London market scenes by the Flemish emigré Joseph van Aken. Descriptions of some of these works – such as ‘A Dutch Landscape with Ruins’ and ‘A Dutch picture with peasants Dancing’ – seem to betray the Netherlandish tastes of the 3rd Earl himself. It is possible that the earl acquired these works while living at Mount Stuart or that he acquired them later, at the peak of his art collecting in the 1760s and 70s. Yet it is equally possible that they were acquired by someone else. The 1782 inventory suggests that Lord Mountstuart already had a hand in the collection. Inscriptions in the margins of the inventory indicate that 41pictures were ‘sent to Lord Mountstuart’ in London ‘as per his Lordships orders’ on 23 October 1783. These were perhaps sent for cleaning and repair or for display elsewhere, possibly to the earl’s townhouse on South Audley Street or to Mountstuart’s own residence on Hill Street.15 Intriguingly, a few of these works later turned up at Luton Hoo, while others had been returned to Mount Stuart by the early nineteenth century.

From this point onwards, the future 1st Marquess played an ever increasing role in the management of the collection. Perhaps his father’s worsening health had turned Mountstuart’s thoughts to his future inheritance or his recent acquisition of the Windsor picture collection through his first wife, Charlotte Hickman-Windsor, had sparked a greater interest in art.16 In any case, less than a year after the 1782 general inventory was taken, Mounstuart compiled a picture inventory of some seventy-five works, with his own brief appraisals, apparently intended to determine which works should be kept, cleaned or discarded (Mount Stuart 1783). Indeed, this list may have determined the pictures that were shipped to an undisclosed location in London in October 1783. While little had changed since the previous inventory, the list offers some insight into Mountstuart’s tastes in art and more generally illustrates the criteria on which paintings in hereditary art collections were judged. Landscapes and still-life and genre subjects were appraised on their formal qualities and artistic pedigree: an anonymous ‘Landscape with Fowels and Birds’ is dismissed as a mere ‘furniture picture’, whereas van Aken’s market scenes are deemed ‘very pretty’ and valuable for having been signed by the artist. Portraits, meanwhile, were judged not only on artistic merit but also historical and family significance: a portrait of Lady Jane Douglas is determined ‘a very bad picture but may be preserved as a curiosity’ whereas a portrait of an unknown girl in the guise of a shepherdess is ‘good for nothing’ if it is ‘not of the family’.

In November 1790, the 3rd Earl took a serious fall while walking on his cliff-top property Highcliffe in Dorset. Although he sustained only minor injuries and managed to live another sixteen months, the enfeebled 77-year-old was believed to be at death’s door. Thus, it was probably with an eye to posterity, and a greater sense of his own place in the noble Stuart dynasty, that Lord Mountstuart compiled the c.1791 document, ‘Names of the Portraits at Mountstuart worth Inscribing’.17 In addition to several of the earlier pictures acquired by the 2nd Earl, this list of fifteen family portraits included more recent commissions such as Ramsay’s stately full-length of the 3rd Earl in coronation robes (fig. 7), an untraced portrait of the earl’s brother attributed to Pompeo Batoni and a likeness of Mountstuart himself by Thomas Gainsborough, which were duly inscribed with the names and titles of the illustrious sitters in bold gilt lettering. Following the death of his father in March 1792, the new 4th Earl of Bute (made 1st Marquess in 1794) largely shifted focus to the more prestigious collection of paintings at Luton Hoo. Nevertheless, he maintained some level of interest in the portraits at Mount Stuart for the rest of his life, expressing concern for their appropriate labelling and display in letters to his servants as late as 1810.18

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

Figure 7.
Allan Ramsay, John, 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)

For much of the nineteenth century, the house and art collection at Mount Stuart went largely unchanged. The 2nd and 3rd Marquesses were decidedly less interested in art collecting and, while the latter was a tireless architectural patron, he seems to have resisted a complete overhaul of McGill’s original construction until after the fire of 3 December 1877. A new interior design scheme was introduced in 1872, which included the glittering Byzantine chapel designed by Burges that still survives.19 But, by and large, the house was left a dowdy, Georgian time-capsule, described by one contemporary visitor as a ‘dilapidated barrack.’20 The art collection too remained a monument to tradition. The final inventory, taken the year before the fire, listed 96 paintings in 17 rooms, the overwhelming majority of which were family portraits. Included among the 77 portraits were works that had previously hung at Luton before its fire of 1843 (Mount Stuart 1876). In the Dining Room, Ramsay’s full-lengths of Lady Mary Coke, Augusta, Dowager Princess of Wales and George III as Prince of Wales joined full-lengths of the 3rd Earl and his son, already at Mount Stuart, thus completing the set of Ramsays that remain in the house today. Miraculously, these works managed to survive the Mount Stuart fire as well and were preserved at Balmory Hall, the Marquess’s temporary home on Bute, until the new family seat was rebuilt around the turn of the century.21

Luton Hoo: Old Masters and the Golden Age of the Bute Collection (c.1763–1843)

The end of the 3rd Earl of Bute’s political career in 1763 marked the beginning of a new phase in the history of the Bute Collection. Details of the earl’s disastrous foray into politics, well rehearsed in political histories of Georgian Britain, need not be repeated here.22 Suffice to say, Bute’s rapid elevation to the highest ranks of political office, thanks to his close friendship with the king, led to widespread hostility and suspicion and ultimately to his resignation from the position of First Lord of the Treasury. His abrupt retirement coincided with a large windfall, inherited from his late father-in-law, Sir Edward Wortley Montagu, which together afforded him the personal and financial freedom to pursue architectural patronage and art collecting on an unprecedented scale. The subsequent ten-year period – at which time the earl was overseeing the renovation of his new country seat, Luton Hoo – seems to have been the most active period in the Bute Collection’s history. This phase also represented a new mode of collecting, which is perhaps best explained by Francis Russell:

The origins of the collections of great country houses of Britain can be traced to two complementary but distinct processes. These are a series of family portraits and allied topographical or sporting works that were built up over many generations . . . and there are collections of Old Masters or contemporary works formed by individual members of dynasties who had a particular appreciation of the arts or an understanding of the réclame associated with possessions of the kind.23

These dual processes were clearly at work in the Bute Collection, with the traditional portrait group at Mount Stuart representing the former process and the vast assemblage of old masters at Luton representing the latter.

The 3rd Earl purchased the Luton estate in 1762 and almost immediately determined that the existing seventeenth-century manor house was outdated and inadequate for his needs. For the necessary refurbishments, the earl turned to the most fashionable architect of the day, Robert Adam, whom he had previously employed to build Bute House (later Lansdowne House), his urban home in Mayfair.24 In 1767, after a seemingly endless series of proposed plans (several of which Bute contributed himself), construction finally began on the new Luton (fig. 8) – a lavish neo-classical palace comprising a massive central block of thirteen bays, linked by wings to five-bay pavilions, altogether measuring more than 350 feet wide, making it one of the largest domestic structures Adam was ever commissioned to build.25 In part, this behemoth was designed to accommodate the earl’s prodigious library and growing art collection.

1767. Drawing. The Bute Collection at Mount Stuart.

Figure 8.
Robert Adam, Luton Park, New Design, Principal Front, 1767. Drawing. The Bute Collection at Mount Stuart.

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

Indeed, as the plans for Luton were being prepared, the Bute Collection was suddenly expanding at an increased rate. The earl’s apparent penchant for Dutch painting was then being nurtured by his most trusted art adviser, Captain William Baillie (fig. 9), who throughout the 1760s travelled to Holland on Bute’s behalf, scouring private collections and auction houses for Northern masterpieces.26 It is probable that Baillie was responsible for the notable acquisition of the series of pictures from the collection of Gerrit Braamcamp of Amsterdam, which included Gabriel Metsu’s Woman feeding a Dog, Jacob van Ruisdael’s Interior of the Niewe Kerk, Amsterdam and Pieter de Hooch’s Disputed Reckoning.27 Meanwhile, the earl embarked on his own art-buying excursion to Italy from 1768 to 1771. He probably acquired there several of the Venetian pictures that were subsequently installed in the Drawing Room at Luton (and much later in the Drawing Room at Mount Stuart). These included Veronese’s Mystic Marriage of St Catherine (fig. 10) and Tiepolo’s Finding of Moses (National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne), which were displayed in distinctive matching gilt frames, thus creating a unified aesthetic at Luton (and enabling future researchers to trace displaced art works from the Bute Collection).28

date unknown. Oil on canvas, 76.2 × 63.3 cm. The Bute Collection at Mount Stuart.

Figure 9.
Lemuel Francis Abbott, Captain William Baillie, date unknown. Oil on canvas, 76.2 × 63.3 cm. The Bute Collection at Mount Stuart.

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

circa 1555. Oil on canvas, 97.7 × 161.2 cm. The Bute Collection at Mount Stuart.

Figure 10.
Paolo Caliari, known as Veronese, Mystic Marriage of St Catherine, circa 1555. Oil on canvas, 97.7 × 161.2 cm. The Bute Collection at Mount Stuart.

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

Although Bute had apparently abandoned his ambitious building project at Luton by the early 1770s – turning his attentions to Highcliffe – the art collection seems to have been installed in the partially finished house by 1774. In September that year, the earl’s cousin, Lady Mary Coke, reported that ‘almost every room has fine pictures. The quantity Ld Bute has collected astonish’d me.’29 Several other guests also remarked on Luton’s art collection around this time, such as the artist Mary Delany, Samuel Johnson and the aficionado of Italian art Brownlow Cecil, 9th Earl of Exeter.30 Following a visit to Luton in 1775, the last recorded twenty-four notable works he had seen there in his copy of Pellegrino Antonio Orlandi’s Abecedario Pittorico.31 These included Tiepolo’s Moses (then attributed to Carlo Caliari, the son of Veronese), Prospero Fontana’s ‘very fine’ Mystic Marriage and several ‘excellent’ pictures of cattle by Aelbert Cuyp (fig. 11), the Dutch Italianate artist whom Bute had allegedly made fashionable among Georgian collectors.32

circa 1650. Oil on canvas, 59.7 × 72.4 cm. The Bute Collection at Mount Stuart, on loan to the National Gallery of Scotland (NGL 007.12).

Figure 11.
Aelbert Cuyp, Cattle watering by an Estuary, circa 1650. Oil on canvas, 59.7 × 72.4 cm. The Bute Collection at Mount Stuart, on loan to the National Gallery of Scotland (NGL 007.12).

Digital image courtesy of Bute Collection at Mount Stuart / Photo: National Galleries of Scotland. Photography by John McKenzie. (All rights reserved)

As illuminating as these sources are, much of the contemporary information about the 3rd Earl’s collection at Luton is anecdotal and fragmentary. Unfortunately, there is no definitive record of his painting purchases nor is there an extant catalogue produced within his lifetime. One of the earliest and most comprehensive records of the Luton picture collection was probably compiled around 1799 and, once again, was the work of the 1st Marquess.33 This document, entitled ‘Rough Catalogue of Pictures, Luton Park’, lists an astonishing 517 paintings in 23 rooms.34 It includes numerous editorial annotations by the marquess, suggesting that it was a draft manuscript, possibly for the subsequent ‘List of the Pictures at Luton as they were in January 1800’ – a revised catalogue which lists only 407 paintings, many in new locations (Luton 1800). Russell surmises that the longer c.1799 list is therefore the most accurate representation of the 3rd Earl’s collection, as it is unlikely that his heir would have made major alterations to the display in 1800 if he had already done so directly after his father’s death in 1792.35 Nevertheless, even this earlier document bears ample evidence of the younger Bute’s interventions.

The 1st Marquess’s extensive critical and descriptive observations in the c.1799 and 1800 catalogues express a genuine connoisseurial interest in art, as well as a desire to preserve and perpetuate the family collection. Bute’s efforts to maintain his father’s great legacy were manifested not only in these crucial records but also in further acquisitions, which were generally in keeping with the existing collection and, in some cases, made with the assistance of the earl’s favoured art adviser. Indeed, there is an extant receipt from Baillie to Bute for the purchase of a picture by ‘Carracci representing a Virgin and Child’ dated to 19 August 1799.36 This was probably for the Ludovico Carracci that was installed in the Anteroom to the Withdrawing Room by the following January. But again, there is no definitive record of the 1st Marquess’s purchases, so it is often difficult to distinguish the acquisitions of father and son. Among the works that can be more confidently attributed to the younger Bute’s purchases are a series of views of his Scottish and Welsh estates by Julius Ceasar Ibbetson, which were displayed in upper-storey bedrooms, and a number of modern British portraits which hung in the Writing Room on the main floor, including a now lost portrait of his sons by Richard Livesay. Additionally, several pictures deriving from the Windsor Collection, such as the School of Holbein portrait of Margaret Tudor in the Green Withdrawing Room, must have been moved to Luton from Cardiff Castle at some point after the marquess inherited his wife’s family estates in 1776.

Regardless of who was responsible for it, the painting collection at Luton Hoo at the turn of the century stood in fairly stark contrast to the smaller, ancillary collection kept at Mount Stuart. Of the 517 paintings at Luton in c.1799, only 83 were portraits, of which only a dozen were of Bute family members. In Luton’s Gallery, where the largest group of portraits hung, and where we might expect to see likenesses of noble ancestors, we instead find 28 pictures of historical figures and unknown sitters by well-known artists such as Holbein, Kneller and Lely. These portraits and several others dispersed throughout the house were acquired it seems for their artistic pedigree rather than any familial significance. Thus, Luton was less a setting for dynastic expression than a showcase of elite connoisseurship. The overwhelming majority of the pictures were European old masters, with approximately 245 of the Northern school, 110 of the Italian school and the remainder a mixture of French, German, Spanish and British. There were so many works by esteemed continental masters that they could hardly be contained in the grand public state rooms on the main floor, so spilled out into the bedrooms and dressing rooms on the upper storey. For example, in the North Green Dressing Room hung Jan Steen’s comic genre tour de force, The Cock Fight (fig. 12), flanked on either side by a pair of Claude Lorrain’s quintessential classical landscapes (figs 13 and 14). The presence of such priceless pictures tucked away in a domestic quarter of the house is suggestive of the generally high calibre of the collection.

circa 1650. Oil on canvas, 91.4 × 110.7 cm. The Bute Collection at Mount Stuart.

Figure 12.
Jan Steen, A Cock Fight, circa 1650. Oil on canvas, 91.4 × 110.7 cm. The Bute Collection at Mount Stuart.

Digital image courtesy of The Bute Collection at Mount Stuart / Photo: Bruce F Pert. (All rights reserved)

1638. Oil on canvas, 73 × 96 cm. The Bute Collection at Mount Stuart.

Figure 13.
Claude Gellée, known as Claude Lorrain, Evening: A Seaport at Sunset, 1638. Oil on canvas, 73 × 96 cm. The Bute Collection at Mount Stuart.

Digital image courtesy of The Bute Collection at Mount Stuart / Photo: Bruce F Pert. (All rights reserved)

1639. Oil on canvas, 73.7 × 96.5 cm. The Bute Collection at Mount Stuart.

Figure 14.
Claude Gellée, known as Claude Lorrain, Morning: A Wooded Landscape, 1639. Oil on canvas, 73.7 × 96.5 cm. The Bute Collection at Mount Stuart.

Digital image courtesy of The Bute Collection at Mount Stuart / Photo: Bruce F Pert. (All rights reserved)

The 1st Marquess of Bute died in 1814, ushering in a period of both loss and gain for Luton and the Bute Collection. As his eldest son had predeceased him in 1796, it was his grandson who succeeded to the marquesate. Ten years prior to this, John Crichton-Stuart (1793–1848), 2nd Marquess of Bute, had also inherited the title, lands and surname of his maternal grandfather, Patrick McDouall-Crichton, 6th Earl of Dumfries. With this came the Ayrshire seat Dumfries House (fig. 15), a Palladian manor designed by Robert Adam and built by the 5th Earl of Dumfries in the 1750s, which was filled with bespoke Chippendale furniture and a small but respectable art collection, including portraits by Kneller and Ramsay, which was subsumed into the larger Bute Collection.37 The 2nd Marquess was a shrewd businessman, known for developing the Welsh coal industry and building Cardiff Docks. Although he apparently had some interest in artistic patronage – and in fact was responsible for completing his great-grandfather’s unfinished building project at Luton with the architect Robert Smirke – he was not, as previously mentioned, a great collector of art. Instead, he seemed keen to consolidate and monetise his recently gained assets and so arranged a substantial sale of paintings at Christie’s in June 1822.38 This loss of more than two hundred works was on top of an earlier sale of eighty-seven marine paintings at the Highcliffe auction in 1796, which together significantly depleted the great trove of pictures assembled by the 3rd Earl and his son.39

Dumfries House: North Elevation

Figure 15.
Robert Adam, Dumfries House: North Elevation, 1754. Drawing. The Bute Collection at Mount Stuart.

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

Despite such substantial losses, the Luton Hoo collection was still considered one of the finest in the nation, lauded by the contemporary art historian Gustav Waagen as the most important assemblage of Dutch and Flemish paintings formed in England before the French Revolution.40 Some three hundred works, including many of the 3rd Earl’s most cherished Northern masterpieces, remained in situ at Luton until the fire of 10 November 1843. Contemporary news coverage of the devastating blaze focused great attention on the efforts to save the art collection, thus further suggesting its fame and perceived worth. According to a correspondent in the Hertford Mercury and Reformer on 18 November, it was ‘to the intrepidity and heroic conduct of Mrs. Partridge, the housekeeper, who, with only four other domestics . . . must be attributed the salvage of nearly the whole of the valuable collection of pictures, amounting in number to about three-hundred subjects by the finest masters’. Reportedly, all but a trio of royal portraits by Joseph Highmore in the Grand Entrance Hall were salvaged and temporarily stored in the undamaged wings of the house.41

Temporary Housing: The Bute Collection in London and Dumfries House (c.1848–1993)

The year 1848 marked the beginning of yet another key phase in the history of the Bute Collection. This year saw both the death of the 2nd Marquess and the sale of fire-ravaged Luton. Consequently, the new marquess was a mere infant and his family’s priceless collection of pictures was suddenly without a home. Such circumstances presented the opportunity for the Royal Institution for the Encouragement of the Fine Arts in Scotland (the precursor to the National Gallery) to offer to house the collection on long-term loan in their newly constructed galleries in Edinburgh.42 While this offer was ultimately rejected, the public gained the chance to view the Luton pictures several decades later in a series of temporary exhibitions held in London, Glasgow and Manchester during the early 1880s.43

On 2 June 1884 there appeared a notice in the Glasgow Herald for an upcoming exhibition of Bute paintings at the Glasgow Corporation Galleries. This report included a brief historical background, offering possible clues about the origins of the Luton picture collection (including the prospect of a greater role played by the 1st Marquess) and its fate after the fire:

The greater part of the pictures were collected upwards of one hundred years ago by Lord Mountstuart, during the lifetime of his father, John Earl of Bute . . . The pictures went to adorn the magnificent mansion, Luton Hoo . . . On the burning of Luton Hoo about thirty years ago, the pictures were removed to a hired home on Eccleston Square, Pimlico, and there they were known to and visited by only a few enthusiastic amateurs. In the meantime, they are in a sense in transit to a new and still more magnificent home being provided for them by the present Marquis on the island of Bute . . .44

The exact whereabouts of the Luton pictures in the years immediately following the destruction and sale of the house remains unclear. As mentioned, a handful of paintings rescued from the blaze had turned up at Mount Stuart by 1876. Meanwhile, others deriving from the Windsor Collection seem to have been returned to Cardiff Castle, including the Margaret Tudor portrait, which reappears in a castle inventory of 1890 (Cardiff 1890). If the Glasgow Herald account is to be trusted, the bulk of the collection was moved to a residence in Eccleston Square in London, a property about which almost nothing is known.45 The original intention may well have been, as the report suggests, to instal the entire collection at Mount Stuart following its reconstruction; but in the end it was more than a hundred years before many of the Bute pictures made their way home to the family seat. Instead, for many decades, most of the paintings remained in England, in a series of rented properties in London.

The 3rd Marquess of Bute devoted much of his time and attention to his grand rural residences in Scotland and Wales. Naturally, however, he and his family needed an urban base. Chiswick House, a Palladian villa in West London leased to the Butes by the Duke of Devonshire, served this purpose for most of the 1880s. While the marquess is known to have made changes to Chiswick’s décor, it is unclear whether any of the Bute paintings were ever displayed there.46 By 1892, the family had relocated to St John’s Lodge, a more central yet secluded villa in Regent’s Park. Here, Bute employed Robert Weir Schultz and H. W. Londsale – designers he was simultaneously employing at Mount Stuart – to update the Regency interiors to conform with his more eclectic, modern tastes.47 Yet he also saw fit to adorn the walls with highly traditional old masters from the family art collection. The St John’s Lodge 1898 catalogue indicates that 317 pictures were displayed here, the majority of which were works that had previously hung at Luton. These were evidently still in place a decade later when Field Marshall Kitchener wrote to Lady Bute, expressing the desire to see the pictures at St John’s Lodge as a much needed ‘diversion from the war effort’.48 They probably remained here until 1916, at which time the family allowed the villa’s lease to expire.

The next property to house the majority of the Bute Collection was 22 Mansfield Street, an Adam-designed terraced house in Marylebone, which appears to have served as the primary residence of the 3rd Marquess’s widow, Gwendolen. A valuation list compiled in 1930 by the art dealer Francis Harvey lists 233 paintings at her residence, most of which were, again, Luton old masters (Bute Collection 1930). At the same time, the 4th Marquess of Bute was busy expanding the existing collection with the help of Harvey, his own twentieth-century counterpart to Captain Baillie. The first Bute in several generations to express a serious interest in painting, the 4th Marquess endeavoured to collect along the same lines as his ancestors but also expanded into the areas of sporting art and early English portraiture, eventually adding nearly 170 works to the collection.49 Among his most notable acquisitions were Ruisdael’s A Town in Winter, Stubbs’s Huntsmen setting out from Southill, and the School of Holbein portrait of Edward VI as a child (now in the Berger Collection, Denver). These were displayed along with 37 other pictures at yet another London address, 39 Belgrave Square, a white-stuccoed early Victorian house.50

By the late 1930s, the Bute Collection had begun its mass migration northwards. An extant document entitled ‘Removal of pictures from 22 Mansfield St in 1938’ lists 196 pictures scheduled for removal from the late Dowager’s property, the majority of which were destined for Scotland (Removal List 1938). However, the 174 pictures heading for the homeland were not, as might be expected, on route to Mount Stuart but to Dumfries House, the family’s secondary estate in Scotland. It seems the 4th Marquess preferred the homely comforts of this more humble abode and so in 1934 initiated a series of further improvements, making it even more suitable as a family home.51 The dispatch of paintings from London must have coincided with the completion of this work. For much of the rest of the century, Dumfries House served as a favourite family residence. It was vacated briefly during the Second World War when it was requisitioned by the army52 and then again when the 5th Marquess, during his short tenure from 1947 to 1956, preferred to reside at Mount Stuart; but after his death his widow, Eileen (1912–1993), returned to Dumfries, where she served as a dedicated matron of the house and collection for the rest of her life.

Two condition reports produced by the art restorer Horace Buttery in 1959 indicate that at this time the Bute Collection was roughly split across the two principal properties in Scotland, with 213 pictures at Dumfries and 266 at Mount Stuart.53 While the latter contained a higher number of works, this probably owed as much to the sheer size of the house as to its perceived importance. It could be that displaying the highly prized works – the Luton old masters, including Cuyp’s cattle, Steen’s Cock Fight and the celebrated Claude landscapes – at Dumfries suggests that the smaller house was indeed the more regularly visited; or at least that its primary occupant, the Dowager Marchioness, had a special interest in the family’s art collection. A picture catalogue of 1968, the most comprehensive catalogue of the Bute Collection to date (Bute Collection 1968), indicates that these notable works were still in place a decade later. Indeed, various subsequent records including loan requests and personal correspondence suggest that they remained at Dumfries until the early 1990s, at which time the successive deaths of the Dowager and her son, the 6th Marquess, in 1993 initiated a period of upheaval for the Bute family estates and art collection. Nevertheless, Dumfries House managed to retain a significant assemblage of art even after its eventual sale to the Prince of Wales’s trust in 2007.54 Presently, it is home to the important collection of Chippendale furniture purchased by the trust, as well as a group of ninety-seven Dumfries family portraits and minor old masters on long-term loan from the Bute Collection.


John Crichton-Stuart, 6th Marquess of Bute (1933–1993) left as great a legacy as any of his lofty, art-collecting ancestors. His dedication to the arts and heritage was expressed in a long list of cultural activities and commitments, which included serving on the boards of the National Galleries of Scotland and the Historic Buildings Council and as president of the National Trust for Scotland. In the last decade of his life, however, he devoted much of his attention to a far more personal project, an intensive building programme to restore and conserve the family seat. This project culminated in 1989 with the founding of the Mount Stuart Trust, a charity established to preserve and maintain the estate for public benefit. Such a costly enterprise necessitated the sale of substantial holdings of Bute family art works, furniture and books in the 1990s.55 But, thankfully, the 6th Marquess and his children, who later served as trustees, ensured that the core of this significant collection would be preserved at Mount Stuart, where it could be seen and enjoyed by the public following the house’s transformation from a family home into a tourist attraction in 1995.

Today, on the standard tour route through the house, visitors to Mount Stuart pass through a sumptuously appointed Drawing Room on the main floor, containing an eclectic mixture of Victorian woodwork and stained glass, Georgian furniture and a number of Italian Renaissance paintings believed to have been acquired by the 3rd Earl of Bute in Italy in the early 1770s. Presiding over this gallery of Cinquecento masterpieces is a monumental portrait of the 3rd Earl’s son, Lord Mountstuart, by Pompeo Batoni (fig. 16), a souvenir of the younger Bute’s own excursion to Italy in 1765.56 This arresting image of the extravagantly dressed Grand Tourist has hung at Mount Stuart since the late eighteenth century.57 For many years it was displayed in the Dining Room, alongside other Grand Manner portraits of Bute family members and allies and only recently, in 2009, was it moved to its present location, which is in some sense a far more fitting setting. In a room full of his father’s celebrated old masters (probably intermixed with a few of his own), the 1st Marquess is able to continue watching over the family legacy, just as he did some two hundred years ago.

1767. Oil on canvas, 236.2 × 119.4 cm. The Bute Collection at Mount Stuart.

Figure 16.
Pompeo Batoni, John, Viscount Mountstuart, later 1st Marquess of Bute, 1767. Oil on canvas, 236.2 × 119.4 cm. The Bute Collection at Mount Stuart.

Digital image courtesy of The Bute Collection at Mount Stuart. (All rights reserved)


  • 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. David Hunter Blair, John Patrick, Third Marquess of Bute, K.T., London: J. Murray, 1921, p. 217. References to inventories etc follow my catalogue ‘The Bute Collection: Picture Inventories, Catalogues, Valuation Lists’ in this case study.

  2. For the 3rd Marquess’s architectural patronage, see Rosemary Hannah, The Grand Designer: Third Marquess of Bute, Edinburgh: Birlinn, 2012.

  3. Caitlin Blackwell, Peter Black and Oliver Cox, Art of Power: Masterpieces from the Bute Collection, exh. cat., Hunterian Art Gallery and Mount Stuart, London: Prestel, 2017.

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

  5. For picture lists etc preserved in the Bute archive at Mount Stuart, see Blackwell, ‘Bute Collection: Picture Inventories, Catalogues and Valuations – A Catalogue’ in this case study.

  6. William Aikman’s commissions are mentioned in letters from the 2nd Earl’s agent, Ronald Campbell; MS archive, BU/2/13.

  7. BU/3/32.

  8. Nothing is known about Jane Howard; the earliest attribution to her is in the 1823 inventory: Mount Stuart 1823.

  9. Portraits of 2nd Earl and his wife (B00130, B00140) were previously attributed to Circle of Kneller; 2005 valuation changed to Circle of Aikman.

  10. The Rubens remained in the collection until the 1930s; according to a later annotation in the margins of the 1823 inventory it was sold in 1937; it last appears in a valuation of 1930: see Mount Stuart 1823 and Bute Collection 1930. The portrait of George I is untraced and not mentioned in any subsequent list.

  11. For the 3rd Earl’s patronage and support of Ramsay, see Russell, 2004, pp. 37–8, 53–4, 77–8.

  12. For the 3rd Earl at Mount Stuart, see ibid., pp. 7–16.

  13. Work at Mount Stuart overseen by Stuart-Mackenzie and Mountstuart is documented in BU/12/13, BU/4/32, BU/8/3, 7.

  14. Inventory of 1764, BU/15/2.

  15. There is no record of pictures kept at South Audley Street. For pictures at Mountstuart’s property, see Hill Street 1765.

  16. In 1776 Charlotte Hickman-Windsor, daughter of the 2nd Viscount Windsor, inherited her family’s Glamorganshire estates, which included Cardiff Castle and its art collection. These passed into the Stuart family and Mountstuart was created Baron Cardiff.

  17. Mount Stuart 1791a; see also Mount Stuart 1791b.

  18. BU/190/11/25, BU/191/11/23.

  19. Hannah, 2012, pp. 110–12.

  20. Catherine Sinclair, Scotland and the Scotch, New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1840, p. 18.

  21. A letter from a solicitor, Thomas Graham Murray, to Frederick Pitman Esq., 9 December 1877, states that ‘Lord Bute has an idea of taking a house here [Isle of Bute] . . . & wishes some of the large pictures to go there’: BU/2/144/4. Annotations in Mount Stuart 1876 indicate that 90 paintings were later moved to Balmory Hall, an Italianate villa on the east coast of Bute.

  22. For Bute’s political career, see for example John Brewer, ‘The Misfortunes of Lord Bute: A Case-Study in Eighteenth-Century Political Argument and Public Opinion’, The Historical Journal, vol. 16, issue 1, 1973, pp. 3–43; Russell, 2004, chs 5 and 6.

  23. Francis Russell, ‘The Hanging and Display of Pictures, 1700–1850’, Studies in the History of Art, 1989, p. 133.

  24. Bute House was sold unfinished to the 2nd Earl of Shelburne in 1763: see Russell, 2004, pp. 146–54.

  25. For Luton Hoo plans, see ibid., pp. 155–65.

  26. For Captain William Baillie, see ibid., pp. 185–91.

  27. Braamcamp sale, Amsterdam, 31 July 1771 (lots 86, 127, 201). The art dealer Pieter Fouquet was a major buyer at the sale and it is believed that Baillie paid Fouquet on Bute’s behalf for the pictures: ibid., p. 191.

  28. For Bute’s Italian pictures, see ibid., pp. 191–2.

  29. Lady Mary Coke, The Letters and Journals of Lady Mary Coke, vol. 4, Edinburgh: David Douglas, 1896, p. 390.

  30. Mary Delany, The Autobiography and Correspondence of Mary Granville, Mrs. Delany . . ., 3 vols, London: R. Bentley, 1862, vol. 2, p. 35; James Boswell, Boswell’s Life of Samuel Johnson, ed. Roger Ingpen, 3 vols, London: Hutchinson & Co., 1850, vol. 1, p. 375.

  31. Exeter’s copy of Orlandi’s Abecedario Pittorico (1753 edn) is preserved at Burghley House.

  32. According to Joseph Farington, quoting Benjamin West in 1818, Bute’s Cuyps were the first in England and subsequently ‘were eagerly sought for and many were introduced and sold to advantage’: The Farington Diary, ed. James Greig, 8 vols, London: Hutchinson & Co., 1928, vol. 8, p. 178.

  33. See Luton 1799a. The dating of c.1799 was determined by Russell, hypothesising that this so-called ‘Rough’ manuscript probably predated the inventory of January 1800 (Luton 1800): Russell, 2004, pp. 193–4. There are also two other picture lists dating from this period: an abridged inventory, lacking room locations, with the year 1799 engraved on the spine of the volume: Luton 1799b; and a recently rediscovered inventory dated to 1802: Luton 1802. All four lists from c.1799–1802 contain similarly worded catalogue entries but no two are the same in terms of picture number or order. Although it is not certain that the ‘Rough’ manuscript is the earliest, it is the most comprehensive of the Luton inventories from this period.

  34. Luton 1799a lists 497 pictures by Russell’s count, the discrepancy probably arising from the fact that several paintings are duplicated, crossed out and moved to other rooms throughout the manuscript. Additionally, pendants and groups of pictures are often listed in a single entry; however, I have counted each work individually.

  35. Russell, 2004, p. 193 n. 3.

  36. BU/232.

  37. For Dumfries see for example Simon Green, Dumfries House, Edinburgh: Historic Environment Scotland, 2016; Andrew Mclean, ‘Dumfries House: A History’, sale cat., Christie’s, London, 12 July 2007, pp. 7–29.

  38. Christie’s, London, 7–8 June 1822.

  39. Christie’s, London, 19 March 1796. One of the buyers at this sale was Sir John Soane, who purchased two works by Canaletto which remain in the Soane’s Museum today (P61, P63). For Bute’s marine collection at Highcliffe, see Francis Russell, ‘Engagements at Sea: The Third Earl of Bute’s Marine Collection at Highcliffe’, Country Life, vol. 175, January 1984, pp. 226–8.

  40. Gustav Waagen, Works of Art and Artists in England, 3 vols, London: John Murray, 1838, vol. 3, p. 359.

  41. According to the correspondent in the Hertford Mercury and Reformer, the damaged paintings hanging in the ‘grand entrance hall’ were ‘full-length portraits of George II, George III and Queen Charlotte by Highmore’; however, there is no earlier record of these pictures and, given that there are no known portraits of George III and his consort by Highmore (who retired in 1762), it is likely that this is an erroneous attribution.

  42. Anthony Crichton-Stuart, Masterpieces of Mount Stuart: The Bute Collection, exh. cat., National Galleries Scotland, Edinburgh: 2012, p. 18.

  43. Jean Paul Richter, Catalogue of the Collection of Paintings Lent for Exhibition by the Marquis of Bute KT, exh. cat., Bethnal Green Branch Museum, London, 1883; Jean Paul Richter, Catalogue of the Collection of Paintings Lent for Exhibition by The Marquess of Bute KT, exh. cat., Corporation Galleries, Glasgow, 1884; Catalogue of the Collection of Paintings Lent for Exhibition by the Marquess of Bute KT, exh. cat., Queen’s Park Museum and Art Gallery, Manchester, 1885.

  44. Glasgow Herald, 2 June 1884.

  45. References to Bute’s residence at 83 Eccleston Square appear in Charles Dickens Jr, Dickens’s Dictionary of London: An Unconventional Handbook, London: Macmillan & Co., 1879, p. 213; Richard Brinsley Knowles, The Manuscripts of the Most Honourable the Marquis of Bute at Eccleston Square, London: Richard Brinsley Knowles, 1872.

  46. Bute commissioned Lonsdale for a glass dome at Chiswick which was moved to St John’s Lodge: see Hannah, 2013, p. 292.

  47. Ibid., pp. 292–3, 320.

  48. BU/95/5/15; see also St John’s Lodge 1909. In 1908 Kitchener was Commander in Chief in India, not officially at war.

  49. For the 4th Marquess’s purchases see Picture Accounts, vol. 1.

  50. Bute Collection 1930.

  51. Mclean, 2007, p. 29.

  52. For the re-installation of the art collection after the war, see Dumfries House 1948.

  53. Dumfries 1959; Mount Stuart 1959.

  54. In 2007, the 7th Marquess put Dumfries House and its contents up for sale. It was purchased by a consortium led by HRH Prince Charles. Open to the public since 2008, it is now operated by the Great Steward of Scotland Trust.

  55. Major auctions included Christie’s, London, 15 March 1995; Christie’s, Glasgow, 25 March 1996; Christie’s, London, 3 July 1996; Christie’s, London, 27 May 1999.

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

  57. Batoni’s portrait of Lord Mountstuart was first recorded at Mount Stuart in 1798 by Sir William Musgrave in his ‘List of Portraits’, British Library, Ms. 6392.



by Caitlin Blackwell Baines
20 November 2020
House Essay
CC BY-NC International 4.0
Cite as
Caitlin Blackwell Baines, "The Bute Collection and its Houses: A Historical Overview", Art and the Country House,