Mrs King's portrait comes from the penultimate stage in Raeburn's career, the period between c.1800 and c.1809. The artist's bankruptcy towards the end of that time coincides with the creation of a new style of High Romanticism in Raeburn's art. Mrs. King's portrait, on the other hand, uses his earlier approach, more quiet, more prosaic, with a monochromatic palette of some austerity and little of the emotional complexity or figural extravagance of so many of the later, highly celebrated female portraits. From c. 1800 the wide colour range of the late 1780s and 1790s was abandoned and for the remainder of his life Raeburn created paintings with lighting reminiscence of twilight or, as here, portraits with spaceless, nocturnal interiors. Mrs. King is probably in mourning dress and this sombre arrangement is highly appropriate. The painting probably dates from the middle of the first decade of the new century, c. 1805, and it has some points in common with a group of other paintings of older women of approximately that period. These include Mrs. Frances Philips o' Stobcross, Glasgow (Mackie number 586, two versions, primary, unlocated; secondary, private collection, USA) and Lady Anne Graham (Mackie number 336, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool) where the dress is more old-fashioned but she was probably sitting at much the same time as Mrs. King. Unfortunately, none of these paintings can be given precise dates. Dunira is a small estate at the eastern end of Loch Earn, Perthshire.
We are grateful to Dr. David Mackie, St. Catharine's College, University of Cambridge, for the above entry. The painting will be included in his forthcoming Complete Catalogue of Raeburn's works, to be published by the Paul Mellon Centre and Yale University Press.