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Lady Eleanor Dundas

Henry Raeburn

Artwork Details

Lady Eleanor Dundas
circa 1795
Henry Raeburn
oil on canvas
30 1/8 in. x 25 in. ( 76.5 cm x 63.5 cm )
Bequest of Margaret Watson Parker


March 28 2009
Raeburn’s painterly talents and skills in emotional observation are evident here. Brushstrokes carefully build the plains and shadows of Lady Dundas’s face, while her Empire-style dress is depicted with a fluidity and evocative description. The use of color is quite restricted, adding to the impression of self-possession and perhaps melancholy that pervades the painting. The costume suggests that Lady Dundas was in mourning; the simplicity of the whole, including the absence of setting, suggests the taste for plainness that was typical of Presbyterian Scotland at the time.
Originally trained as a miniaturist and jeweler, Raeburn became the premier portraitist in Edinburgh from the late eighteenth century through the first decades of the nineteenth century. Working directly on the canvas without preliminary under drawing, Raeburn created portraits known for their qualities of direct observation. He was regarded as so talented that England’s leading portraitists of the day, Sir Joshua Reynolds and Thomas Gainsborough, were threatened by the prospective competition and urged Raeburn to remain in Scotland

Subject Matter:

Raeburn was a well-known portrait painter working in his native Scotland. He usually worked directly on the canvas without preliminary under drawing and his broad approach is well conveyed in the figure's costume. He was also very attentive to the sitter's features, framing Lady Dundas's features against the dark veil and gossamer lace of her dress.

Physical Description:

Lady Eleanor Dundas is shown half length, seated in front of a brown background. She looks towards the light source to the right of the painting. She is dressed in a diaphanous black dress with an Empire cut and black veil. A sheer lace collar frames her throat. She has heavy lidded eyes and an alert or slightly mournful expression

Usage Rights:

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