The Scottish National Portrait Gallery has bagged itself a beauty by Raeburn thanks to the Acceptance in Lieu Scheme
When eminent Scottish portraitist Sir Henry Raeburn painted Lady Helen Montgomery in 1816, he created a portrait that was quintessentially Georgian yet somehow timeless.
As a portrait of a lady of wealth and influence, (Lady Montgomery was a Scottish heiress recently betrothed to Sir James Montgomery) it ranks among the finest of any era. And with the subject’s faint smile and air of contentment set before a dramatic skyscape it is arguably one of Raeburn’s best.
Now this majestic full-length portrait can be seen by the public, courtesy of the Montgomery estate, the Government’s Acceptance in Lieu scheme and a tax deal worth over £210,000 which has delivered it to the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.
Describing the nearly life-sized painting as a “splendid addition” to the collection, gallery Director Christopher Baker hailed Raeburn’s “remarkable ability to create an intimate and sensitive portrait within a grand format” and pointed out his “slick technical skills” and “great mastery”.
Raeburn’s handling of Lady Montgomery’s features and clothes are certainly vivid yet highly subtle, and the fashions of the day - the simple, empire-line dress and the red bonnet casually hanging from the subject's hand - will also appeal to fans of the Georgian era.
The daughter of the MP and aristocratic businessman Thomas Graham of Kinross House, Lady Montgomery married Sir James Montgomery in 1816. Her new husband had achieved both local and national prominence, first as an MP and then as Lord Advocate and rebuilt Stobo Castle between 1805 and 1811.
Their marriage brought together two of Scotland’s most influential families, and as Portrait Painter to King George IV in Scotland, Raeburn was the ideal man to celebrate the union.
Raeburn is a towering figure in Scottish portraiture. His signature pieces are a portrait of Sir Walter Scott and the Reverend Robert Walker Skating on Duddingston Loch (better known as The Skating Minister) both of which are held by National Galleries Scotland.
This imposing yet sensitively modeled portrait from Scotland’s Georgian highpoint may yet become another.
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