Continental European before 1800, Portraits: British 16th and 17th C 46 If not James Graham of Montrose, who is this sitter? Is he from the European mainland?

Topic: Subject or sitter

I doubt very much that this is James Graham of Montrose. It bears little physical or stylistic resemblance to the Honthorst portrait of him. See

The encampment and battle scene don't strike me as especially British, and I think it may be later seventeenth-century from the European mainland.

M M Gilchrist, Entry reviewed by Art UK


M M Gilchrist,

Yes, and Montrose in 1650. The falling-band collar has more of the volume and detail at the front, and does not extend far over the shoulders to the sides, which suggests 1660s-70s.

Jacinto Regalado,

The face is vaguely suggestive of Charles II, I suppose, but I don't recall seeing him with a goatee, and I rather doubt this is he.

M M Gilchrist,

The face is too round and pudgy and the nose not long enough to be Charles.

Jacinto Regalado,

I was going more by the eyes, but the problem is this is hardly a first-rate portrait, meaning it may not be a very good likeness of the subject no matter who that may be.

M M Gilchrist,

I wish we could see the background battle and camp in more detail. I have seen the picture in real life a few years ago, and the uniforms looked late 17C.

Jacinto Regalado,

This man looks like he could be Italian or French. Actually, I'm reminded of portraits of Louis XIII, though I'm certainly not suggesting that's who this is.

M M Gilchrist,

No, it's later. A close-up photo of the battle scene would be useful.

Jacinto Regalado,

For what it's worth, I suspect the main figure and the background were done by different people. As far as one can tell from the available image, the background appears relatively more accomplished.

Kieran Owens,

There can be little doubt that this is a portrait of James Graham, the 1st Earl of Montrose, albeit in a possibly caricature likeness. A useful discussion on the multiplicity of very different images of James Graham - from four paintings that, it is claimed, bear the greatest resemblance to him, and on to "the endless engravings of the penny-print school" - can be found in the "Memoirs of the Marquis of Montrose" by Mark Napier. The attached composite shows these four "true likenesses" as described therein.

James Graham was created Lord Graham and Mugdock, Earl of Kincardine and 1st Marquess of Montrose on the 6 May 1644. He was executed in Edinburgh on the 21st May 1650.

The second composite shows those images of him, however fancifully originated, that contain important elements that help identify this discussion's sitter. Most obvious is the helmet with the crossed-barred visor and red ostrich plumes, as seem in both this discussion's image and the 1740 engraving by Jacobus Houbraken. The next is the inclusion of the baton of command in all three images, which Graham would have received after 1644; and the final is the presence of the falcon-head hilt on the sword, as depicted in this discussion's painting. The vanquishing falcon formed an important element in the crest of the Montrose family's coat of arms.

Additionally, at the base of the 1740 Houbraken engraving, Graham can be seen astride his horse, with plumed helmet atop his head, about to receive his baton of command from his fellow rider. This image could be a reference to his three outstanding successes, in early 1644, at the battles of Perth, Aberdeen and Inverlochy. The building on the battlefield shown in this discussion's painting could be Inverlochy Castle, though the absence of water might mean that it is not this particular engagement. 17th century military experts might have a better opinion of this suggestion.

The question here really is whether this discussion's painting was created after 1740, copying Houbraken's helmet, plume and baton motif, and using the very similar likeness of Graham that can be seen in the Georgian House collection of the National Trust of Scotland (the right-hand-side painting of the second attachment). Alternatively, Houbraken could have used this discussion's painting to copy that motif, but then surely he would have incorporated this discussion's facial likeness in his 1740 engraving, rather then the rendition of William Dobson's 1644 "true likeness" image.

Finally, the copy of "Memoirs of the Marquis of Montrose", by Mark Napier, contains a convincing argument as to how Montrose could not have been painted by Anthony van Dyke (1599 - 1641), as he is credited for doing so in the Houbraken engraving of 1740. The image in that engraving is most likely to be that as painted by William Dobson (1611 - 1646) in 1644.

Jacinto Regalado,

It would be of interest if a costume specialist would address the type of lace collar in this picture in terms of dating, since it would have to have been in fashion by the 1640s. Also, the goatee depicted is not the right sort, or so it would seem, compared to the known portraits of Montrose. Of course, the portrait could be posthumous and subject to inaccuracies generated by the painter, who is clearly rather provincial or primitive.

M M Gilchrist,

If it were a posthumous painting based on a b/w engraving, that might explain the peculiarites (the subject having black hair instead of mid-brown; the updating of the collar); but I'm not sure. I would hope that Dundee might post a close-up of the background details, as i think these might be helpful.

Kieran Owens,

Further to the suggestion that within this painting there is depiction of the Battle of Inverlochy, see the attached composite for an image of the castle as it is set in its mountainous surroundings. The peaks resemble those as shown in the distance of this discussion's painting.

Additionally, in the second attached composite, it is worth comparing this discussion's painting with the National Army Museum's painting, referenced above by Jacinto Regalado, of George Monck, 1st Duke of Albermarle, by an unknown artist, the face of which is done after a miniature by Samuel Cooper (1609 - 1672). In very many aspects of pose and content they are alike.

Samuel Cooper is also know to have painted a miniature portrait of James Graham, which is in the collection of the Duke of Buccleuch. Perhaps both of these miniatures were used as the basis for the creation of these two larger paintings, by the same unknown artist. An analysis of the frames, canvases and paint etc., of both of these paintings, might provide evidence of their having been painted by the same hand, utilising the motifs as featured in the 1740 Houbraken engraving of Montrose. This would place their creation to the mid-1700s, rather than the mid-1600s.

Perhaps Philip Mould has an image of the Buccleuch collection's miniature of the Marquis of Montrose, which could be compared with this discussion's painting (search for Montrose at the following link).

M M Gilchrist,

A mid-18C date would certainly explain some of the features that made it not 'ring true' as a contemporary portrait…
There's clearly an encampment with tents: a possible siege?

Jacinto Regalado,

The painting of Monck in the Army Museum is clearly by a better hand than the painter of the Dundee picture. I had not previously noticed, however, that the red feathers and helmet are almost identical in both pictures and may thus be more or less stock features. What is seen through the opening of the helmets appears to me to be a kind of padded red interior lining, not an external visor as in the Houbraken engraving. I tend to doubt the Dundee portrait is as late as mid 18th as opposed to latter 17th century, unless the painter was very provincial indeed.

Kieran Owens,

The helmets in the Dundee and Army Museum paintings may well show an interior padding, especially as both also feature the pointed drop-down visors. However, the few examples of attached helmet padding (as opposed to padded caps) that still exist intact show a smooth-surfaced cloth, as compared to what would practically be a rather uncomfortable criss-cross of ridges as suggested above. However, the painter/s of these portraits might not have been too bothered with such minute technical accuracy in the depiction of these items of armour.

It might also be the case that these portraits were painted by the same hand, not from sittings by their subjects to the artist/s, but were created some time between or after the deaths of both subjects, and at a sufficient distance in time that allowed for less concern for the capturing of their true likenesses.

In this regard, it is worth remembering that George Monck took command of the army in Scotland in 1654, four years after the execution of Montrose. If the holding of his baton of command, as shown in the attachments to this discussion, reflects that moment, then his painting must date from after 1654. Monck was created 1st Duke of Albemarle on the 7th July 1660, and also was made a Knight of the Most Noble Order of the Garter in that same year, one emblem of which - of George the Martyr slaying the dragon - he can be seen wearing in the composite's image, which implies that Samuel Cooper's miniature of him was painted just before, during or just after 1660.

Could it be that Montrose, having had his reputation rehabilitated after the Restoration in the summer of 1660, and after having been re-buried at St. Giles' on the 11th May 1661, was further remember in the mid-1660s by the painting of this portrait, at the same time as Monck was being similarly depicted in the portrait that now hangs in the National Army Museum? On reflection, in 1740, Houbraken engraving might have used the helmet motif from this portrait but opted to use the "true likeness" image of Montrose from the paining by William Dobson (aka the van Dyke image).

To add one more element to this discussion, attached is a painting of William Craven, 1st Earl of Craven (1606 - 1697), by Gerrit van Honthorst, showing a number of stylist similarities to the portraits of Montrose and Monck. During the plague of London (1665/1666), Monck remained in the city to maintain order, assisted by Craven.

One way or the other, the question remains as to whether our discussion's subject is now identifiable as James Graham, 1st Marquis of Montrose. On the basis of the National Trust of Scotland's Georgian House portrait, has this question been positively answered yet?

If yes, the question, as to who is the artist, can now be addressed in a more focussed way.

Jacinto Regalado,

While the Army Museum's portrait of Monck might conceivably be by Honthorst, the Dundee picture under discussion could not--its quality is simply not good enough.

M M Gilchrist,

Yes: Honthorst is a superb painter, one of the 'Utrecht Caravaggisti'. The attribution of the Dundee painting to him or his circle is frankly incredible.

Kieran Owens,

The Dundee attribution is to an "imitator of" Honthorst, and not "school of" or "circle of" or even "after", nor any other of the euphemisms for "not by", which quite reasonably might explain what you describe as "not good enough" quality. Who then might that imitator be?

Returning to the question originally asked, if not James Graham, then who is this discussion's sitter? Are then any credible alternatives to him?

Kieran Owens,

Given that Gerrit van Honthorst died on the 27th April 1656, he could not be the painter of the Monck portrait. The painting could, however, have come out of the studio of van Honthorst, if such an establishment continued to operate after his death. The attached composite, of paintings attributed to "studio of Honthorst", of Frederick, Prince of Orange (1584 - 1647) and of William II, Prince of Orange (1626 - 1650), both show them wearing their sash and St. George's badge of the Order of the Garter (Frederick's from 1627; William's from 1645). Both paintings also contain that now-familiar combination of plumes and (what I happily accept as) red-lined-padding of the helmet.

Perhaps all of these paintings - the Montrose, the Monck, the Frederick and the William Princes of Orange - originated in Holland, in the studio of van Honthorst, although some painted by students not as highly gifted as their master.

Jacinto Regalado,

The Army Museum's Monck portrait and the "studio of Honthorst" portraits of the Princes of Orange are all distinctly superior in quality to the Dundee picture, especially if one focuses on the face of each sitter, meaning the Dundee picture seems quite unlikely to have come from the same source. However, I realize "imitator of" could mean practically anyone, anywhere, even an amateur artist.

Honthorst visited England ca. 1628-31, and he had busy studio operations in Utrecht and The Hague, but it would have been rather infra dig for his studio to have produced something as rudimentary as the Dundee picture.

Kieran Owens,

Presumably it could have been produced by an artist in England who was aware of the other paintings, and simply set out to copy their "Hornhorst" style, especially as it would have been a posthumous and possibly post-Restoration work.

Kieran Owens,

Forgive the slip in the last posting..."Hornhorst" should have read "Honthorst". It's late!

Jacinto Regalado,

The theory that, if this is indeed a portrait of Montrose, it is a posthumous work, possibly by a Scottish artist, related to his "rehabilitation" in the 1660s, is reasonably plausible. I quite agree that the key question here is the identity of the sitter, not the specific artist, who was/is of little consequence. I would ask the collection for the following, depending on feasibility or availability:

1. A higher magnification of the background with the castle and fighting men.

2. How far back can this picture be traced, where, and to whom?

3. How far back does the identification of the sitter as Montrose go, and what is the original source for it, if known?

Osmund Bullock,

I agree with Jacinto that the artist is of little consequence. The painting is nowhere near good enough to have come from the studio of van Honthurst, or indeed that of any well-known artist. In the absence of a print or original that it obviously copies, "style of" or "imitator of" (as given) is absolutely the highest it merits, and even that is generous. It's essentially a hack-job by a later untrained, probably provincial artist whose identity is unlikely ever to be known. How much later one cannot really guess without a closer look at both front and back – it could be anything from late C17th to early C19th, though I lean towards late 17th/early 18th. The mixture of styles is typical: though probably (from the facial hair) intended to depict someone rather earlier, the collar type is post-Restoration, and is seen most commonly in portraits of the 1660s & 1670s. See

Osmund Bullock,

Being such a poor picture, it will be difficult to be sure who is intended – have a look at some of the dozens of likenesses of Charles I on Art UK to see just how little a portrait of even a well-known subject by an indifferent artist can resemble them, e.g. .

I doubt the background scene will reveal anything useful at higher resolution, as it is probability generic – I’m attaching a blown-up detail that shows that the “battle” is merely a very minor skirmish, if that. The rows of tents before a very un-Scottish castle (it looks more Italianate), perhaps with other buildings to its right, could perhaps represent a siege; but again tents are commonly found as just a general symbol of military activity, especially in continental portraits. The sword hilt shown is unreal and quite unlike anything of the period; and the pommel is most unlikely to represent anything heraldic – I don’t think I’ve ever seen one that does – and in any case to my eye it looks more like a pheasant’s head than a hawk’s.

1 attachment
Osmund Bullock,

If it *is* a siege, and if it could even be Dundee that’s being besieged, then that would suit Montrose who took the town after a famous one in 1645...but it would also work for Monck who took it after an even more (in)famous one in 1651. Monck, it is true, was a much heavier-set man than our portrait shows, but he was similarly dark-haired and swarthy in complexion. And as to the chin tuft that the sitter wears with his moustache (not really a goatee, which comes from the end of the chin like a, um, goat), Monck does seem to have had a small one immediately below his mouth; and it is easy to find later images, such as , that exaggerate this; and others that also slim him down as well: & .

To be frank both Montrose and Monck are equally likely or unlikely – I’m convinced by neither – and without a source image being found we’ll be struggling. Oh, and winding back to an earlier comment, I can easily see this as being French/Continental, not British.

Osmund Bullock,

Incidentally, I would caution against comparisons with the portrait supposedly of Lord Montrose at the Georgian House – I find it wholly unconvincing. . The baton apparently lies balanced in the most unlikely way on the palm of the sitter's outstretched, pointing hand; and I fear the armour (and sword) may not belong either – I have seldom if ever seen such bouffant shirt sleeves worn by a man in armour, and the highly-ornate tunic and cuffs seem odd too (and very un-British). Anyway I feel sure the baton at least has been added to make him into a military commander; and of course he looks nothing like the more reliable images we have of Montrose either. I suspect someone took a wholly unmilitary, probably Continental portrait of someone else, and did their best to turn it into James Graham. Unsurprisingly there seem to be no other version or print of this image in existence, at least on the web and identified as him.

Jacinto Regalado,

The man in the red coat in the background seems to be wearing a tricorn hat, which is typically associated with the 18th century, although it may have come into use in the latter 17th. Again, a costume or military expert may prove useful.

M M Gilchrist,

Osmund, the landscape is not Dundee.
I think you're right about the Georgian House picture being an overpainted work: I wonder if it's ever been x-rayed? And by the same token, I wonder if this has been 'tweaked' with alterations, too, to make it pass as someone it isn't?

Kieran Owens,

Do still keep in mind the falcon-hilted sword as a possible reference to the Montrose crest. Attached, too, is a slightly clearer image of the background action.

If the painting depicts one of Montrose's victories in Scotland, during the War of the Three Kingdoms, between the Royalists and the Scottish Covenanters, set out below is the chronology of his "year of miracles", from Sunday 1st September 1644:

Battle of Tippermuir - 1st September 1644.
Battle of Aberdeen (Justice Mills) - 3rd September 1644.
Battle of Inverlochy - 2nd of February 1645.
Battle of Auldearn - 9th of May 1645.
Battle of Alford - 2nd of July 1645.
Battle of Kilsyth - 5th of August 1645

M M Gilchrist's above-suggested notion of this painting shows a siege is supported by the encampment of tents pitched below the castle. Montrose laid a four-day siege to the Castle Chanonry of Ross in 1646, which was held by the Clan Mackenzie. Perhaps historians of military uniforms may be able to identify the two fighting horsemen.

1 attachment
Tim Williams,

The attribution to Honthorst was dismissed by de Groot in 1893. This portrait hasn't been thought of as a Honthorst since that date. 'Imitator of' is fine, in absence of any other name that probably won't ever be found.
James Graham's name as 'sitter' is attached due to the armour etc that Kieran has enlightened us with. Armour was unique/bespoke to a soldier. The designs for Graham's armour are known, and match the armour shown here, particularly the helmet/visor. Many of the original designs for armour of this period still exist, and it might be possible to find copies of what James Graham ordered from the armourer.
For me, this is a British portrait, the face is the poorest element by far (and might be heavily over-painted). If the face was better modelled, circle of Robert Walker would not be far off:
The rearing horses of the background battle scene are very Jan Wyck, and I suspect no attention would be paid to the architecture (realistic elements of place), since it wouldn't have been painted en plein air, or by anyone who'd ever visited the areas in question.

Basically, it's probably a 'British' portrait and there's sufficient symbolism for it to depict James Graham, (even though it doesn't look that much like him, and in absence of another soldier's armour that matches so closely), and the artist might have seen Jan Wyck's work, so could post-date Wyck.

We are extremely grateful for the insights shared, and the research and source material offered up during this discussion. The portrait will continue to be identified in our collection as that of James Graham, 1st Marquis of Montrose.

This painting was one of several historic portraits bequeathed to Dundee’s permanent art collection in 1892 by industrialist Peter Carmichael. The attribution to Honthorst was rejected immediately by de Groot, who noted, kindly, as “much too slight” to be attributed to Honthorst. Thereafter, as Kieran noted, it has been catalogued as “Imitator of”. You will find a concise provenance of the work in the National Inventory of Continental European Paintings database.

I agree that, in this instance, the artist is inconsequential although the work is of interest in the wider art historical discussion on portraiture, and in the history of nineteenth century collecting.

I have arranged for a detail of the landscape and battle scene to be photographed and will share it with you in a couple of days.
Susan Keracher

M M Gilchrist,

Thanks, Susan. I'm curious as to whether it has been x-rayed, in case there's been an element of overpainting to tweak it for the ostensible subject?

Kieran Owens,

Addressing the original question asked about this portrait - "If not James Graham of Montrose, who is this sitter?" - and ignoring all that has been posited so far, there is another possible answer than my earlier, rather unwise statement that "There can be little doubt that this is a portrait of James Graham, the 1st Earl of Montrose". A little doubt has crept in and is demanding attention. Is there a possibility that this is actually a portrait of the Parliamentarian soldier Robert Devereux, 3rd Earl of Essex? Attached is a composite featuring a central image of him, from the collection of the Essex Record Office, alongside this discussion's subject and a known engraving of him.

The second attachment also juxtaposes for comparison.

Attached, too, is a detail composite of William Dobson's portrait of the young Charles II, when he was Prince of Wales, purportedly with the 1642 Battle of Edgehill shown in the background. It is suggested in several commentaries that the Charles is standing with the Baton of Command over the captured Earl of Essex's tawny-coloured standards, that colour being associated with the Devereux family. Peeping out from between the folds of these flags can be seen an image similar to that seen in this discussion's work, which is the pummel and hilt of a sword with a bird of prey's head for a motif. Is this a coincidence or is it a purposeful reference to a particular man?

M M Gilchrist,

I think you may be right. The facial features and facial hair are very like Essex. However, I would still hazard it is of a later date, perhaps a posthumous image, because of the collar style.

Jacinto Regalado,

The third earl of Essex died in 1646 and was buried in Westminster Abbey, where his body was permitted to remain after the Restoration. There was also a funeral effigy of him at the Abbey, but Charles II had that taken down. In life, the earl was associated with Presbyterian elements. In any case, this portrait seems much more like him than like Montrose.

M M Gilchrist,

What I'm now wondering is, if it is Essex (and the physical resemblance is stronger than for the other candidates hitherto suggested), has the landscape been tampered with/overpainted (possibly in 18-19C?) to look "more Scottish" in order to sell the painting as Montrose? The soldiers' dress (so far as we can see) is of a later period (late 17-early 18C), and the figures and landscape are painted far more crudely than the main part of the picture – which is no masterpiece, but still better than the background on that side.

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