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    Sale 11936

    Old Masters: Part II

    14 April 2016, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 341

    Sir Henry Raeburn R.A. (Stockbridge 1756-1823 Edinburgh)

    Portrait of a gentleman with a hat, formally identified as Sir William Napier (1785-1860)

    Price Realised  


    Sir Henry Raeburn R.A. (Stockbridge 1756-1823 Edinburgh)
    Portrait of a gentleman with a hat, formally identified as Sir William Napier (1785-1860)
    oil on canvas
    35 1/2 x 27 1/2 in. (90 cm. x 70 cm.)

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    We are grateful to David Mackie, St Catharine's College, University of Cambridge, for his assistance in cataloguing this lot.

    This painting is almost certainly identical with a portrait seen by John Brown, a Scottish man of letters, when he visited the Raeburn family to see their collection of paintings by their grandfather at their home in Midcalder, Lothians, in c. 1873. Brown said of it: 'In a bedroom … Head of a Gentleman in a richly-toned blue coat - capital: he is powdered, and is holding his hat, in the inside of which you see the powder, done to perfection. Raeburn could never paint his men in fancy dresses, he used to say they should have the clothes of their time.' That portrait was later lent by the Raeburn family to the Raeburn Exhibition 1876 (55) where it was described in the catalogue again as Gentleman with a Hat. At a later date, in or before 1916, the title Sir William Napier seems to have become attached to the picture for reasons that are not clear. The style of the portrait suggests a probable date for sittings in the late 1790s. But at that date Sir William Napier (1785-1860) was still a child. The portrait is perhaps best described using the old title, Gentleman in a Hat. It was one of the earliest portraits by Raeburn to enter an American public collection.

    The portrait will be included in the forthcoming complete catalogue of Raeburn to be published by the Paul Mellon Centre, London, and Yale University Press.


    (Probably) the artist’s studio contents; by descent in the Raeburn family until at least 1876.
    with John Levy Gallery, New York, from whom acquired in 1916 by exchange by
    The Muskegon Museum of Art.

    Pre-Lot Text



    (Almost certainly) J. Brown, Portraits by Sir Henry Raeburn, Photographs by Thomas Annan, with Biographical Sketches, Edinburgh, 1873, p. 10.
    (Almost certainly) W.R. Andrew, Life of Sir Henry Raeburn R.A., London, 1886, p. 123.
    (Almost certainly) Sir J.L. Caw in Sir W. Armstrong’s, Sir Henry Raeburn, London, 1901, p. 115, as “Gentleman, with hat”.
    Aesthetics, April-July 1916, pp. 39-40 (illus.).
    F.N. Levy, ed., American Art Annual, XIII, 1916, p. 153.
    S.R. Howarth et al., European Painting, Muskegon, 1981, p. 22.
    D. Mackie, Raeburn Life and Art, The Complete Catalogue of the Artist‘s Work, unpublished PhD thesis, 6 vols., Edinburgh and Yale, Mackie no. 572.


    (Probably) Edinburgh, Royal Scottish Academy, Sir Henry Raeburn, R.A., October-November 1876, no. 99, as “Gentleman with Hat” (lent by the artist’s family).
    Cleveland, Cleveland Museum of Art, Inaugural Exhibition of the Cleveland Museum of Art, 6 June-20 September 1916, no. 21.