The drawing for this picture (fig. 1), which sold in these Rooms on 12 November 1968 as lot 83 (650 gns), was inscribed on the reverse: '...my hounds shall wake/The lazy morn, and glad th' horizon round,/Somerville's Chase'. These are the last lines of William Somerville's poem The Chase (or Chace), first published in 1735.
Educated at Winchester and Oxford, Somerville (1675-1742) was a devoted follower of field sports. He was fifty before he published any of his works, of which The Chase, a poem of four books in blank verse which was published in several additions, is the most celebrated.
William Hamilton's origins were firmly rooted in the field of the decorative interior. He developed a distinctive style which has been described as 'soft' neo-classicism. His father was an assistant to the Scottish architect Robert Adam (1728-92), who helped the son, still in his teens, to study in Rome under the decorative painter Antonio Zucchi (1728-95). Returning to England, perhaps with Zucchi, Hamilton worked with him at Kedleston, newly built to designs by Robert Adam, in the later 1760s. He followed this period with Zucchi by studying at the newly established Royal Academy Schools from 1769. He first exhibited, with a subject taken from early English history, in 1774, though most of his exhibits in the 1780s were portraits, particularly theatrical portraits. In 1784 he became as Associate, and in 1789 a full member, after which he exhibited mainly historical and literary subjects. One consequence of his close association with the Academy was contact with Henry Fuseli (1741-1825), whose influence can be seen in his works from early in the 1790s onwards.
It has not been determined whether this is James George, 7th Duke of Hamilton and 4th Duke of Brandon who succeeded his father in 1758 and died, unmarried in 1769; his brother Douglas, 8th Duke of Hamilton and 5th of Brandon who died in 1799 without issue or his uncle Archibald, 9th Duke of Hamilton and 6th of Brandon, M.P. for Lancashire 1768-72 who died in 1819. Their residence was Hamilton Palace, the largest non-Royal residence in Europe in its heyday, it was located north-east of Hamilton, South Lanarkshire, Scotland and was demolished in 1921.