Completed Dress and Textiles, Military History, Portraits: British 19th C, Scotland: Artists and Subjects 111 What more can we establish about the sitter in this portrait of an unknown officer?

Portrait of an Unknown Officer
Topic: Subject or sitter

National Museums Scotland has commented: 'Previously, we had recorded the sitter as possibly being in the service of the East India Company but now that is in doubt and thought by the Curators to have been a red herring. Keeper of Scottish History and Archaeology, Stuart Allan has said ‘we speculated that he is possibly in service of a South American independence army. I followed this up with published speculation, in Allan, S., (2009) 'Liberators. Some relics of Scottish service in the wars of Spanish South America, 1805-26', Review of Scottish Culture, 21, pp. 15-34. I have also sent images of the painting to one or two international contacts, to no avail.’

David Saywell, Head of Digital Assets, Entry reviewed by Art UK

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Completed, Outcome

This discussion is now closed. The sitter has been identified as Captain William Hutchison (sometimes given as 'Hutchinson') (1791–1833).

Thank you to everyone who contributed to this discussion. To anyone viewing it for the first time, please see below for all the comments that led to this conclusion.


Are not 'death's head' (skull and crossed bones) cap badges most commonly associated with German regiments, including those that fought with the British army owing to the Hanoverian origins of George III during the Napoleonic Wars?

Jacinto Regalado,

In case someone else has made the same mistake as I, that is not a tropical palm tree at mid left but a rather extravagant plumed ornament attached to the shako.

Jacob Simon,

Date of portrait from sideburns, collar and general feel 1830s??

Jacinto Regalado,

No, Pieter; that is Napoleon crossing the Alps by David.

Arthur Mcclench,

A cavalry-style sabre need not indicate cavalry, since they were also favoured, for example, by British light infantry & rifle officers in the Napoleonic period. The crescent-shaped shoulder 'wings ' seen here were also distinctive ornaments worn on the coats of light infantry (amongst other elite branches) in British service. The green boss and feather on the cap also supports identification as light infantry. The dark uniform might in fact be a rifle green which became progressively darker in the C19th as a search for a fast rifle green continued to be unsuccessful. A cavalry connection is less likely.

If it is black, a Brunswick connection might be worth investigating as the troops known as "Black Brunswickers' were notable for wearing black and sporting Death's Head emblems in commemoration of their 73 year-old Duke killed at Auerstadt in 1806, (and, in some respects, of the next Duke killed at Quatre Bras in 1815) The corps was apparently disbanded in 1820.

Charles Griffin,

The uniform is puzzling. It is in the style worn by the British Infantry in the 1820s. The jacket is green and the facings are black. By the facings I mean the collar, cuffs and the wide lapels that are liberally laced with silver buttonholes, placed in pairs. The shoulders have silver fringed wings decorated with small silver chains. These were worn by officers of flank companies in the infantry, while officers of battalion companies wore fringed epaulettes.

Each regiment had a Grenadier company and light infantry company which took their place on the right and left of the rest of the regiment on parade, i.e. the flanks. Light infantry had a stringed bugle badge on their wings and Grenadiers had a flaming grenade badge. This officer looks as if he has a stringed bugle badge which would, as well as the green plume on his shako, make him light infantry. The shako has the deaths head badge which does indicate Brunswick. But I have checked my books and the uniform does not fit any of the known Brunswick units. The sword in a brass scabbard is odd. The crimson silk sash on his right shoulder is also odd because the British officers wore their sashes round their waist a this time, apart from kilted Scottish regiments.

Sorry not to be able to identify the regiment, but I think the date of this uniform is somewhere around 1823 to 1828.

Jacob Simon,

In style not painted in Britain.

Arthur Mcclench,

The lettering on the cap should offer some clues. A Latin theme suggests itself.

"ANAMA ***." is perhaps a name, either geographical or personal. There appears to room for 3 more letters to balance the upper scroll, which rules out ANAMA In Brazil. Pursuing the Latin theme,
AÑAMAZO in northern Spain is the only place name of a suitable length that appears in a World Gazetteer search but there is no tilde on the N in the painting. ANAMARIA, perhaps? The DSL on line throws up no promising substantives.

"MIL [IT]**** " immediately suggests 'military' or 'militia' in Engish, or the equivalent in other languages, 'milicia' or 'milizia' for instance (although the obscured 5th letter appears not to be a C or a Z) but these would all seem to be too short to fill out the lower scroll.

MIL[P] **** seems less promising but 'milpa' refers to maize cultivation in Central America and 'Milpa' or 'Milpas' appears in numerous Mexican place names both singularly and in compound forms- (Grande, Larga, Alta, Vieja etc) and most commonly, it would seem, as a diminutive -'Milpillas' or 'Milpitas.'*&place;=&nation;=&prev_page=6&english=Y&topid=65&page=1

What other language groups suggest themselves?

Kieran Owens,

Might the crimson ceremonial sash and the crimson and gold sword cord/knot and silver tassel prompt any military experts to identify the nationality of the sitter?

Charles Griffin,

Kieran, It isn't ceremonial sash. British officers wore crimson silk sashes as part of their uniform when they were on duty. The nationality cannot be determined as there were many foreign soldiers who fought as part of the British army during the Napoleonic wars.

Kieran Owens,

Thank you Charles.

The name on the shako is, I suggest, Anamaboe Milita, relating to the town of Anamaboe (as one of its various spellings, but as widely used in the early 19th century), once the notorious slave market in Ghana on the African Gold Coast.

If this accepted, the sitter would be connected to the fort there, established by the Royal African Company and developed after its dissolution in 1750 by its successor, the African Company of Merchants, which itself was abolished in 1821.

Howard Ripley writes about the Anamaboe (sic) Militia from page 74 onwards in The Bulletin of the Military Historical Society (2006, Volume 57, Issue 225 - Volume 58, Issue 232):

In his 1964 'Great Britain and Ghana: Documents of Ghana History, 1807-1957', George Edgar Metcalfe writes about the Annamaboe (sic) Militia and the role it played in the Ashanti wars.

See also:

Newspaper reports in 1824 mention the establishment of the Royal African Light Infantry, under the command of Captain Alexander Gordon Laing:

The London Courier and Evening Gazette, Monday 3rd May 1824, filed the following report:

"Captain Laing took the Fantee country under his special care. This officer in August last, with a detachment of the Second West Indian Regiment and a body of the Annamaboe (sic) Militia, supported by several Native Chiefs, totally defeated the Ashantees at Assecuma."

In the Morning Chronicle of Wednesday 6th October 1824, there is mention that a Captain Hutchinson, of the Annamaboe Militia, was "placed in command of the Hill Tower, where he gave up his whole time to improving the defences of his post..."

This portrait will need to be very carefully considered as it now sits firmly in the realm of the slave trade.

• Title

If all of the above is accepted, the title of this portrait could be amended thus:

An Officer of the Anamaboe Militia

Kieran Owens,

It would be interesting to know by whom the gift of this portrait was made in 1946. If it was a family heirloom the officer could possibly be traced back to time served in Ghana.

Kieran Owens,

Also, if known to the Art UK contributors of military expertise, perhaps Howard Ripley could be asked to comment on the portrait.

Kieran Owens,

An interesting extract from the 2007 'British Images of West Africa / Written at Rhodes College' by Nathaniel Anson Plemons, in the Department of History, Rhodes College, Memphis, Tennessee, states:

"A particularly prevalent misconception surrounds British-West African relations during the slave era - the popular narrative that the British landed in West Africa and through dominance, both physical and mental, acquired slaves to work plantations established in the Americas. Instead of this popular perception, historians of late have demonstrated numerous times that a complex political and socio-economic relationship based on trade and commerce existed between British and West African elites through compromise and mutual understanding based on the concurrent enhancement of their wealth and power. This relationship can be clearly seen in the interactions of the British, Fante, and Asante in and around the town of Annamaboe from the early eighteenth century to the unilateral abolition of the slave trade in 1807 by the British. Annamaboe during this period existed almost entirely under the control of Fante elites, who consequently had the upper hand in nearly all of their dealings with British traders. British traders who engaged with Fante middlemen did not view them through the lens of a coherent racial ideology that would come to dominate European perceptions in the late nineteenth century. Although several theories of race and hierarchy had emerged as early as Bernier’s in 1684, at the time of British-Fante trading relationships they primarily manifested in a sort of quasi-acceptant culturalism, on both sides. As such, it was possible for an African like Ignatius Sancho and several others like him to become successful in European society in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries."

Arthur Mcclench,

The facial hair is interesting. In the course of the Napoleonic wars moustaches, which had been regarded as a continental affectation, had become tolerated in the case of British hussar regiments and in 1816 were allowed for the newly converted lancer regiments of light dragoons The non-regulation fashion spread to other cavalry regiments and then to infantry regiments, especially on foreign stations, prompting a memorandum from the Commander in Chief on Feb 28th 1828 which observed that "The practice of wearing moustachios is now growing into very general extent throughout the service," and decried this as "un-English and a hindrance to recruiting." In August 1830 moustaches were prohibited for all but the Household cavalry and hussar regiments, with limited success.

Allowing the moustache to join with the side whiskers as in the portrait under discussion was seen as a particularly Continental style, and regarded as something of a step too far for British officers -"A clear space of two inches" being required between the corner of the mouth and the whisker-' until the 1860s when it temporarily gained some purchase as the bearded phase of the 1850s waned. The particularly refined shaping seen here, due perhaps to the facial hair having gone precociously white, might suggest that the officer was not British in origin or simply indicates that in the age of high Regency dandyism, an officer of colonial militia might wear his facial hair as he dashed well chose.

In the context of Ghana and the West African slave trade, the choice of a death's head emblem on the cap would be noteworthy, especially given the habit of taking heads as trophies on the part of the Ashanti (Asante), notably that of the local British governor, Franco-Irish émigré Brig Gen Charles MacArthy of the African Corps, killed in the debacle at Nsamankow on Jan 20th 1824, involving men of both the Royal African Colonial Corps of Light Infantry and local militia who suffered heavy losses. If correctly identified, the subject of this portrait might well have been present.{LPARENTHESES} British_Army_officer)

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Arthur Mcclench,

Please ignore the attachments in the above post- merely the result of pasted text.

Kieran Owens,

In his 'Journal of a Residence in Ashanti' (1824), Joseph Dupuis mentions, on page 214, Sir Charles McCarthy and the establishment of militia groups. "It was hoped, that besides the organization of the militia, as they were called, (the bands of Fantees, or Cape Coast people, whose cause we had adopted) government would plentifully supply the place with arms, ammunition etc. and men, if needful."

"Towards the end of 1823, Sir Charles, who doubtless was extremely impatient at the rigorous blockade enforced by the Ashantees, seemed to have come to a final resolution of marching at the head of his militia bands and West Indian troops into the interior, for the purpose of dethroning the King."

Kieran Owens,

The Royal African Colonial Light Infantry was raised in 1822 and disbanded in 1840, when its personnel were absorbed into the 3rd West Indian Regiment.

Kieran Owens,

Having received permission from the artist to reproduce it here, the attached sketch, by Denis A. Darmanin, is a detail from an officer's silver ball button, which was drawn for Howard Ripley's note on the Anamaboe Militia, as referenced above. There can be little doubt from Darmanin's drawing that the shako plate in this discussion's portrait also references the Anamaboe Militia.

Ripley states in his note that a "a reference to the Battle of Affatoo, which took place on the 21st May 1824, again against the Ashantee, shows the presence of the Anamaboe Militia, commanded by Captain Hutchinson who was shot through both arms while leading his men to the charge. William Hutchinson was born in Scotland and came to Africa as a merchant but went on to hold several high offices, including, for a time, British Agent to the King of Ashantee."

A report of the 13th February 1844 shows that the Militia then consisted of 1 corporal and 11 privates. They were disbanded and replaced in 1845 by the Gold Coast Militia and Police.

Given the Scottish connections, if the 1946 gift can in any way be attached to a descendant of William Hutchinson then this could be his portrait, albeit with the wounds to his arms having been omitted.

Jacob Simon,

Kieran's research forms a welcome breakthrough.

Kieran Owens,

A crucial next step would be to find out from the National War Museum at Edinburgh Castle if they have details of the person who gifted the portrait to the collection in 1946.

Also, details of the wars against the Ashantee are contained in this 1831 narrative:

If it is not of William Hutchinson, its contents might allow for a narrowing down of likely candidates for this portrait.

Kieran Owens,

In relation to an action that took place on the 21st May 1824, the Morning Post of Thursday 19th August 1824 reported the following:

"The Ashantees occupied a height, thickly wooded, steep hill (sic). and we were in a cleared farm directly under them. On the road to the 'Pa Demba Farm', the plain of rock which looks like a meadow on the right hand, will give you some idea of the field of battle at "Fetue". Captain Hutchinson, of the Militia, was severely wounded in both arms in the commencement of the affair....".

W. Walton Claridge, in his 'History of the Gold Coast and Ashanti' (1915), describes Hutchinson's injuries:

"Lieutenant (sic) Hutchinson of the Anamabo Militia was wounded, being shot through both wrists as he was in the act of urging on his men."

In this regard, one possibly very convincing detail in this portrait for making the case that it is Captain William Hutchinson can be seen in the attached image. The right sleeve cuff, with its white facings, leads on to the sitter's right hand, with its ringed little finger. His left sleeve cuff, however, is continued by some sort of collar or cuff extension, which could possibly be a cover for a mutilated or missing hand.

In 1824, William Hutchinson would have been 32 years old, an age that could be reasonably attached to this portrait's sitter.

Neat observation: another otion is that the left hand is perhaps in a white kid glove with ribs on the back, which are visible. The absence of the right glove anywhere else in the picture might support the left one covering injury.

Kieran Owens,

I think that you are correct, Pieter, as, on closer inspection, a small piece of the sabre can be seen between the top end of the cuff and what is now probably the top part of the base of the left thumb of the glove. Hopefully the injury idea still is worth considering, especially if it turns out that the donor is related in any way to the Hutchinson family.

Osmund Bullock,

This is a remarkable achievement, Kieran - the button evidence clinches it for me.

The possible, even probable sitter - his colouring, certainly, is typically Scots - was actually called William Hutchison (without an 'n'), as given in both his Dec 1833 death/burial record at Tranent, nine miles east of Edinburgh, and throughout the 1837 Edinburgh Sheriff Court Testamentary documents for him. A quick glance on Google suggest there's plenty more to find about him online as 'Hutchison'.

I've bitten the bullet and bought all the Scottish documents above - attached. I've skimmed the Will and Inventory, though the clerk's hand is quite a challenge; I can' t immediately see any references to a portrait (or uniform), but it needs to be deciphered fully by someone (probably not me). One should not expect too much: portraits are seldom mentioned individually in either Wills or inventories. Sometimes there are general references to "pictures", but often they were just included with furniture, silver, etc, as part of the testator's personal effects.

Osmund Bullock,

Annoyingly I find I could have had most of Hutchison's Will for free, as it was also proved at the PCC in England - again attached (three separate images). It's mostly rather easier to read, too...but sadly I still can't see anything directly relevant (though it mentions "... all the African curiosities and articles of African manufacture brought by me to this country"). There is plenty else, though - and more in the Scottish documents - about his family and heirs. He seems to have had no wife or legitimate issue; but as well as two sisters (Katharine & Jane) and a brother (George, a Royal Naval officer), he had three (?mixed-race) natural sons, William, Robert & Henry Hutchison born in Africa, to whom he left £800 each payable at age 21. It is not clear if they were still there when he made the Will or had been brought over to Scotland.

William's Will names an uncle Robert Chisholm, which enables us to identify him as the William Hutchieson [sic] born in Jan 1791 to a Leith flesher (butcher) Robert H & his wife Katharin Chisholm - that record also attached. So he was actually nearly 43 when he died rather than 41. Five siblings born to the same couple in Leith 1784-96 include the three mentioned in the Will.

Osmund Bullock,

Yes, the sons were mixed-race. At least one (Robert) was educated in the UK, but returned to Africa to found a highly successful business - biog here And though it's mainly about architecture, this Ph.D. dissertation has a certain amount about them. William seems to have been in West Africa as early as 1817. There is an extensive Hutchison family in Ghana today, all apparently descendants of William's progeny.

The portrait photograph of Robert Hutchieson (at the end of the very informative African biographical note) is remarkably supportive of the Edinburgh portrait being of William in terms of the shape and relative proportions of head and features, including hair shape and outline. The age differential may be ten years or so, but close enough for such comparison. Provenance proof would be a bonus, but accepting that the oil is of William or another European Anamaboe Militia officer (if in fact there were any, of which there has so far been no hint) where does that leave us on potential artist?

Kieran Owens,

The 1841 Scotland Census shows that William, Robert and Henry Hutchison were boarding in a bookseller's house in South Leith, Midlothian.

On online family tree suggests that the mother of William Hutchison's son Robert was a woman called Weibah. Robert was born on the 1st December 1828 at Annamaboe and was married to Anna Sophie Swart (Cape Coast Castle, 1834 - 1904). They had three children:

• Anna Sophie Hutchison (Cape Coast Castle, 1853 - Elmina, Ghana, 1904)

She married The Hon. Christopher Alexander Sapara Williams CMG (14th July 1855 – 15th March 1915)

• William Francis Hutchison (Cape Coast castle, 1855 - ????)

On the 10th December 1874 he was initiated into the Freemason's Gold Coast Lodge. In 1902, he was living in London as an acknowledged "West African Expert". By 1910 he was Vice President and Reporter of the Commission on Economic Agriculture in West Africa and for eight years has been manager of Rubber Plantations in that region.

• Emma Hutchison ( - 1907)

She married Prince John Owusu-Ansah (1851 - ????) and they had a daughter, Victoria Adelaide Owusu-Ansah (1886 – 1980).

The above are mentioned in "The Pen-Pictures Of Modern Africans And African Celebrities: A Collective Biography of Elite Society in the Gold Coast Colony" by Charles Francis Hutchison (related?)

Robert Hutchison died on the 13th June 1863. The Glasgow Morning Journal, of Wednesday 15th July 1863, carried the following notice:

"At Cape Coast Castle, on the 13th ult., Robert Hutchison, Esq., Merchant, second son of the Late William Hutchison, Governor, Anamaboe (sic)."

The tree also suggested that William's son, Henry, was born the 4th June 1829, at the Cape Coast, Ghana and that he died on the 18th April 1909 at Fern Tree Gully, Victoria, Australia. His mother was possibly a different woman to the above-mentioned Weibah as he is described as a half-brother to Robert.

David Rowlands,

Good detective work, Kieran et al, on identifying the little known unit and the uniform worn by the officer in the portrait.
In the Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research, vol. 10 pp 143-149, there is an article by D.D. Daly about Brigadier-General Sir Charles MacCarthy (1764-1824). This Irishman began his military service in 1785 in the Irish Brigade of the French monarchy. Following the French Revolution, he (like many others) switched to service in the British Army.
When the former French Settlements of Senegal and Goree were returned to France under the treaty of 1814, Charles MacCarthy was transferred to Sierra Leone, as Governor.
Having seen slaves working in the West indies and ships arriving there with their human cargoes, he took the deepest interest in the suppression of the slave trade, which, though abolished by Great Britain by Act of Parliament on 25 March 1807, was still actively carried on by other countries. He was in constant communication with William Wilberforce on the subject.
In 1821 a Bill was passed abolishing the African Company of Merchants and transferring all its possessions on the Gold Coast to the Crown, to be placed under the Government of Sierra Leone. The main reason for this step was the inefficient manner in which the Company carried out the prevention of the slave trade. Thus Sir Charles assumed the governorship of the Gold Coast as well as that of Sierra Leone.
He settled liberated slaves in neat and well laid-out villages, with churches, schools, and houses for missionaries and teachers. The children of captured natives were supported and educated at the expense of the Church Missionary Society. In villages where there was no clergyman, it was customary for the Governor to perform the marriage service and baptize the children. These liberated slaves had the greatest affection for him and always called him 'Daddy'. After his death many a child was given the name 'Karti' in remembrance of him.
The entire suppression of slavery as practised by the Ashantis was not effected by the British and Danish Governments until the year 1874 when Sir Garnet Wolseley took Kumassi.
It was because of the tyranny of the Ashanti King and the oppression which the Fantis had to endure that Sir Charles led a military operation into the interior in November 1823. W Walton Claridge, 'A History of the Gold Coast and Ashanti' (John Murray, 1915) describes the battle on 21 January 1824, when the victorious Ashantis defeated MacCarthy's force, and McCarthy was decapitated.
Kieran Owens 13/06/2021 posed a worry that 'this portrait will need to be very carefully considered as it now sits firmly in the realm of the slave trade.' However, judging by the beneficent record of the Governor, Kieran's sentence perhaps ought to read 'This portrait... now sits firmly in the realm of the suppression of the slave trade.' It should not become a victim of 'cancel culture' because of the times in which it was painted!

Louis Musgrove,

I have followed this very interesting thread. One observation. I don't think it says MILITIA on the bottom part of the cap badge.If it does say
MILI I cannot for the life of me see that the 5th chatacter is a T.
What I see is MII.19 Anybody else see this as a possibility.?
Would it be possible in the fullness of time to conduct tests on the cap badge area to see if alterations have been made???
Also - the buttons on the uniform seem totally plain- no hint of a design.

Osmund Bullock,

Louis, I think you're nit-picking. It's possible there's been retouching in the area you describe by someone who didn't quite understand what was or had been there, though it looks OK to me - I think the blob you see as part of a '9' is just a slightly over-sized serif hanging from the crossbar of a 'T'. Either way it strains credulity to suspect that the original artist intended anything other than a partial view of the words 'ANAMABOE / MILITIA' as per the button. See attached comparison.

As to the plain buttons, the sitter is an officer in a very smart, probably dress uniform - I can't see that being regular wear in the hot and humid West African climate. The button may well have come from a more practical everyday uniform, perhaps an NCO's tunic.

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Louis Musgrove,

Osmund-don't you know us peasants is always full of knits -we is always picking at them :-) (That is supposed to be funny .I hope)
No - the thing is this 200 year old portrait is in lovely condition,bright and clear and colourful,so it must have been restored recently-ish. Which to me seemed a bit odd-why spend so much money on an unknown painting of an unknown officer by an unknown artist.? It arroused my curiosity. So I thought I would mention it.

Kieran Owens,

David, my sentence "this portrait will need to be very carefully considered as it now sits firmly in the realm of the slave trade." should not be interpreted as suggesting that the sitter was a willing participant in that hideous activity. It was written, however, as a caution that the portrait should be very carefully considered. Delightfully, your very insightful contextualisation helps establish its relevance and by the end of this discussion we could be looking at a anti-slavery activist who was working to protect the Annamoboe and other local tribespeople from that sinister trade as carried out by bellicose Ashanti rulers.

Louis, what exactly would MII.19 mean? I do believe that the first four letters are very obviously MILI and the the next is a stylised T. The artist also seems to know the badge very well as he/she has captured the specifically triangular nasal and rectangular mouth cavities with faithful accuracy.

Also, I cannot understand why the painting could not be accepted as the original, in its original condition, most likely carefully preserved in a family setting until its gifting in 1946, no more than 120 years (but definitely not 200 years) or so after its execution, probably a few years after c.1826.

Once again, establishing the name of the 1946 donor would greatly help in resolving the question of the sitter's identity.

Kieran Owens,

In regards to Louis' suggestion, is there any documentary evidence at the National War Museum, Edinburgh Castle, that the painting was restored between 1946 and today?

Kieran Owens,

Deepest thanks are extended to Denis Darmanin for his kindness in drawing for this discussion a face-on rendering the Anamaboe Militia shako badge in the attached image (left-hand-side), which is presented beside Osmund's own composite from above.

Arthur Mcclench,

Although MII.19 seems unlikely and in the context the the lower scroll on the cap is meant to read in full 'MILITIA', I think it is fair to point out that the putative 'T' is situated before the half way point on the scroll, leaving only 'I' & 'A' to fill out the remaining portion; whereas, as the accompanying sketches above shows the 'TIA' to be well past the half way point.

Presumably this was artistic licence intended to show sufficient characters for the full word to be apparent. With moderate success.

The skull and cross bones motif evidently was a pointed reference to local circumstances.

Louis Musgrove,

Kieran- I have no idea what MII.9 would mean- that's just how I saw it. The Fifth character doesn't look like a curly topped T to me,no matter how hard I try.
The Shako-which is almost identical to our Shako --of which I posted a picture way above --- 17th Light Dragoon Shako-- is a pattern used between 1815 and 1820 ish ( I asked the RLNY Museum, That one was owned by Lt John Brackenbury 1815) And that is, believe it or not-200 years ago.
As to condition- how many Victorian,or even Edwardian paintings can one see that are dirty and dingy with paint flaking off?? I also refer back to the discussion about the young ensign of the 49th--Time of Waterloo-- in the Ipswich Borough collection.Our painting here surely must have been restored.

Osmund Bullock,

I think we're getting waylaid by minor details here. I can’t even see major relevance to the question of whether or not the painting has been restored (though doubtless it’s been cleaned and perhaps retouched here and there) – unless, that is, it’s being suggested that *all* the shako plate details have been altered later to those of an extremely obscure and short-lived West African militia that just happens to fit in with the appearance of a uniform of just the right period that has baffled military experts – experts who had already wondered if it might be of some little-known colonial (or similar) unit. If that *is* what's being suggested, I invoke Ockham’s Razor.

So to make my view even clearer, there is no doubt whatsoever in my mind that the artist intended to portray the shako (and presumably uniform) of an officer in the Anamaboe Militia, and that the sitter was such an officer. What is not yet 100% certain (though highly likely) is that the officer is Captain William Hutchison (sometimes given as 'Hutchinson'), 1791-1833. I have more to write on this, on him, and on the question of where and when it might have been painted, but it will have to wait till after the weekend. I'm off to the country.

Kieran Owens,

Marion and David, is there any possibility that the National War Museum could be contacted and asked if there are any details associated with their accession number M.1946.68 which might help in revealing the name of the donor of this portrait? If there were any such details, they might put a timely halt to our collective speculations.

Arthur Mcclench,

"Not that far off" - perhaps; but off it definitely is and that represents a decision on the part of the artist, which I think is of interest when questions like this of identification arise. That and the obscure And no, no doubt that the ANAMA can reasonably be identified as Anamaboe.

As for being waylaid by minor details and Ockham's razor, Osmund, it seems to have been worth a fair amount of text to make that point.

I should like to know more about that death's head motif.

Osmund Bullock,

Pax, Arthur. I was invoking William of Ockham only as an argument against what I perceived, perhaps wrongly, to be an implication (not by you) that this might possibly *not* be the shako of the An[n]amaboe Militia after all. The 'T' that is vexing Louis is, I estimate from careful proportionate calculations, at most ¼ inch (6 mm) high as painted; as such it would be no surprise to me if the artist just formed it imperfectly. But I'm now doing precisely what I was (impatiently and unreasonably, I acknowledge) complaining about, so I'll say no more!

The probability of the sitter being Hutchi[n]son looks high. No-one has yet produced the name of another European officer of the Anamaboe Militia, let alone one with Edinburgh connections that might provide a basis as good as his for the portrait still being there (or being sent back there) in 1946. That will remain the case even if the provenance does not provide a clear connection (and the sooner the better, either way).

It won't however help with artist, which even though not the question originally asked is a contingent one. If it were a standard British 30 x 25 in (762 x 635mm) one might be easier in thinking the artist was -or perhaps someone foreign working (presumably) in Scotland: but its not - its given dimensions are just under 36 x 30 (is that 'standard' anywhere?). While we wait for provenance information 'artist?' or 'school?' might be a more useful area for speculation

Jacob Simon,

I don't wish to be dogmatic but I continue to feel that in style: Not painted in Britain (post, 13 June). I fear that the size is not going to help from my study of canvas sizes internationally.

I wonder about German/Danish/Scandinavian -though can't imagine how (or why). I've never heard of any European oil painter working on the 'Guinea coast' but perhaps it was someone he met ther or in that connection?

Kieran Owens,

To both the east and west of Annamaboe, the towns of Christiansborg, Elmina, and Axim, amongst others, had been held by Danish forces. As the wikipedia entry for the Danish Gold Coast states:

"After the slave trade was abolished in 1803, Danish colonizers attempted to establish "cotton, coffee, and sugar plantations on the Gold Coast instead," yet these were largely unsuccessful. By 1817, "almost all of the Danish posts on the Coast were abandoned, with the exception of Fort Christiansborg," which was, along with the other posts, sold to the British in 1850."

Is it possible that there was a Danish artist working in the area in the mid to late 1820s?

Also, more on Hutchison can be read in the attached, from 'Travels in Madeira, Sierra Leone, Teneriffe...' by James Holman (2nd ed., 1840).

Jacinto Regalado,

Well, there's a certain waxen/plastic quality to the picture that does not go with a British painter. It could be a Scandinavian artist, but I am hardly well-versed in that field.

Louis Musgrove,

Does our sitter look like a Scotsman? Possibly , Unfortunately he could be from any European country . But - he does remind me of some of the Hapsburgs.

Marcie Doran,

I have been examining the shadow area on the stone immediately below the rim of the hat. Is the painter’s name there?

I have also been examining the lowest white rectangle on the sitter’s cuff that he is pointing to with his index finger. Is his name there?

Kieran Owens,

Extracts from a very useful article on the history of the British infantry shako, by Alex. R. Cattley, which appeared in the Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research (Vol. 15, No. 60 (Winter, 1936), pp. 188-208), are attached. Illustration No. 6, for a style dated to between 1816 and 1829, is by far the closest to the shako in this portrait. The Prussian/Hanoverian influence on the shako's design might explain why their might be some confusion as to the sitter's nationality being thought of as other than British.

Perhaps there is someone well versed in the design of Regency uniforms who could identify the green tunic with its black facings and white buttonholes.

Marcie Doran,

I have been examining the white trim on the trousers between the buckles at the bottom of the painting. Is there text there?

Osmund Bullock,

Kieran, Arthur McClench and Charles Griffin dealt fairly fully with the uniform above (13/06/2021). They concluded it was very similar to a light infantry type of the 1820s (which of course matches your shako dating), though the particular colour combination of dark green with black facings and silver (not white) laced buttonholes and shoulder wings could (unsurprisingly) not be linked to any known unit.

As the Anamaboe Militia was a locally-raised and administered unit, never I think technically part of the British Army, and with a prime function of defending the Anamaboe Fort and vicinity, my guess is that the uniform was also designed locally - quite possibly by Hutchison himself, granted his proprietorial attitude to the Fort (of which he was titled, semi-officially, as Commandant), and over which he was lording it when Richard and John Lander met him there in March 1830: In 1828 a small amount officially granted for the Fort's upkeep had been withdrawn, and thereafter it was maintained by contributions from some local merchants, of whom Hutchison was the senior. This only encouraged him to believe he was no longer answerable in any way to the Council of Government on the Gold Coast (from which he had resigned), and to treat Anamaboe and its Fort (where he both lived and operated commercially) as his personal fiefdom. All this (and very much more) on Hutchison can be found in this extremely well-researched and informative book of 1962:

Kieran Owens,

Sorry Osmund! That annoying auto-spellchecker strikes again.

Kieran Owens,

A very interesting paper on a book written by William Hutchison's great grandson, Charles Francis Hutchison (1879 - 1940), which contains useful references to the family's history, is available for free to read on JSTOR:

Kieran Owens,

David, while you are asking the collection for better images, could you also ask about the identity of the 1946 donor? Kieran

Marcie Doran,

Thank you, David. In your photos, I see text in all three areas but cannot decipher it. Under the hat, there are different texts separated by a pearl and also text in the darkest patch to the right. On the patch on the cuff that he is pointing to, I see the text runs over the pearl, making that pearl look broken. In your image of the white area between the buckles, I see text in the first third of the space, which is slightly darker, and text at the top and bottom of the area beside it.

Kieran Owens,

David, many thanks. Hopefully there will be some useful response.

Osmund Bullock,

David, I worry that drowning the Collection with requests for numerous close-ups and questions about conservation history (interesting but to my mind of limited relevance) will make it less likely that they'll focus on what is far and away the most important request - information about the donor. Without knowing where it came from I fear we may never establish the sitter's identity for certain.

Marcie Doran,

Thank you so much for checking, Tim.

Tim Williams,

Marcia, regrettably what you are seeing is an illusion created by a combination of the craquelure on the surface of the painting and the digital compression of the image. There is no text other than that on the cap badge.

Osmund Bullock,

Kieran, I agree that Hutchison’s June 1823 account of his career (in the Colonial Office papers) may be of interest. It will certainly clarify when he arrived on the Gold Coast, which must have been in about 1815 – his friend the extraordinary blind world traveller James Holman refers (in the book already mentioned by you) to Hutchison’s “... return to England [sic], after an absence of seventeen years in Africa.” See But if (as I hope) Hutchinson’s CV relates to his appointment to the Anamaboe Militia it could be *very* interesting. It’s certainly at about the right time – he was Captain of the militia at the action at Efutu the following May (21st) where he was wounded; and it is to be found within the 1826 dispatches from Sir Neil Campbell, Governor & C-in-C at Sierra Leone (which also administered the Gold Coast). The CV will also plug the biggest gap I have (1820-23) in a timeline I’m preparing of Hutchinson’s presence & activities at Cape Coast and Anamaboe.

Actually the reference to England by Holman may be significant: Holman mentions that Hutchison had visited him after he got back from Africa, and Holman lived in England, at Windsor. This suggests that Hutchison probably returned home to Scotland via SE England, which would mean that a London artist (pace Jacob) might be possible. The timeline I mention above, along with Holman’s statement about him being away for 17 years, is already leading towards a strong likelihood that Hutchison was continuously in Africa throughout the 1820s – he in fact seems not to have left until 1832, and not earlier than early April. Unless there was, which I rather doubt, a very competent European portraitist working on the lethally unhealthy Gold Coast at this time, one can only conclude that Hutchison must have been painted in Europe, probably Britain, in 1832 or 33. I don’t think that’s problematic vis a vis the 1820s uniform (he would have brought it home with him); but there is another possible conclusion, that the sitter is not Hutchison, but a different officer/merchant who left Africa earlier...for other officers there were, though as yet unidentified. More of that later.

Whoever is wearing the uniform, it would have been made for him -and presumably to measure - by a specialist military tailor. I don't suppose that they were found on the Guinea coast any more than European oil portraitists were but please prove me wrong if there is evidence otherwise.

So unless that could be done by sending measurements back from Africa and receiving it 'mail order' for local adjustment, that presumes someone in the Anamabo Militia returning home on a visit and getting it made (and perhaps the portrait at the same time rather than after final return home).

Kieran Owens,

If the portrait is of Hutchison, given the apparent short lapse of time between his return home to England and his death, it could also be that this portrait was painted posthumously as his family's tribute to him.

Marcie Doran,

I wanted to draw your attention to this painting at the National Army Museum, Royal Hospital Road, London. You will see there are many similarities to the mystery painting. Sadly the artist is unknown.

“Lieutenant Robert Hay, 50th Regiment [Bengal] Native Infantry, 1838 (c)
Oil on canvas, artist unknown, 1838 (c).

Lieutenant Hay (1813-1846) was killed in action at the Battle of Sobraon in 1846, during the 1st Sikh War (1845-1846). He had previously served at the battles of Ferozeshah and Aliwal.

NAM Accession Number
NAM. 1959-12-224-1”

Marcie Doran,

I cannot identify the sitter but I think I have found a non-British artist who painted military paintings (with hats) in the same fine detail as the mystery artist.

Please take a look at these two works:

“ATTRIBUTED TO FRANÇOIS-JOSEPH KINSON | Portrait of General Anne-Charles Lebrun (1775–1859)”



Property from a Distinguished American collection
Bruges 1770 - 1839
oil on canvas
45½ by 35¼ in.; 115.6 by 89.5 cm.

According to Wikipedia:

“François-Joseph Kinson (Dutch: Franciscus Josephus Kinsoen) (Bruges 29 January 1770 [1] - 18 October 1839), was a Flemish painter.

Kinson attended art school at Bruges and soon established a reputation in Ghent and Brussels. He exhibited a portrait in Paris in 1799. Settled in Paris from 1794 on, the artist courted the favor of the rich and famous of the time. He worked for Napoleon’s court and eventually became court painter to Jérôme Bonaparte, King of Westphalia. Kinson is best remembered for his portraits of elegant women. The artist continued to work in Paris, but died unexpectedly during a visit he made to his sisters in Bruges in 1839, at the age of 68.“

Louis Musgrove,

Here is interesting snippet from a sale catalogue about the wearing of Shakos in a hot climate.(lifted as a copy-plus photo lifted as attachment-note the silver top band intact.

A superb example of the extremely rare Regency period Officers Shako of the 17th Light Dragoons pattern 1812. See plate 19 “Head dresses of the British Army” – Cavalry by W. Y. Carman (pictured above).

The condition of this helmet is outstanding and possibly never worn. The Regiment history states “1812 .. the old helmet disappeared and the felt shako took its place”. After service in India from 1808 having landed in Calcutta with 790 strong, the regiment lost through disease, invalided and killed in action 26 Officers and 796 men but received numerous reinforcements during this period. It returned home with no less than 200 all ranks. On arriving in St. Helena in 1823 they learnt for the first time that they had been redesignated as a Lancer Regiment. It is also recorded that “the shako was discarded forever and a lance cap of the more orthodox shape introduced in its place”.

Close examination of this helmet shows almost no wear with even the complete chin strap in perfect condition. The maker’s placement of a Coat of Arms indicates a Scottish maker as the main Lion and Unicorn are reversed with first and fourth quarter of the shield depicting the Lion rampant of Scotland.

Being over 200 years old, Shakos of this quality virtually never survive. A truly magnificent example to an extremely popular regiment.

1 attachment
Louis Musgrove,

Here is Field Coatee in National Army Museum dated 1815. Although red in colour it has many similarities. Cuffs and front piece-buttons and stripes,and the wing on the shoulder. Styles changed after Waterloo.I remember when I used to visit the Museum in Chelsea the actual uniforms of the time that were on display were small and quite shoddily made- nothing like their appearance in paintings!

The Collection has commented, 30/06/21 'Unfortunately the Collection are not allowed to release the name of the donor due to current data protection legislation’

Martin Hopkinson,

could the collection however ask the donor if more is known about the painting's povenance?

That sounds complete rot: whoever presented it in 1946 will certainly be dead now. You might as well say data protection forbids release of a donor's name who gave it in 1846. If it's true its the end of provenance research.

Kieran Owens,

David, if the Collection's comment is true about "data protection legislation", does that mean that every mention of who has ever donated or gifted works to every other collection featured in Art UK will now have to be systematically removed from every record? My own experience of this area is that many people are wholly ignorant of what General Data Protection Regulation (EU) 2016/679 (GDPR) actually covers. Also, unless it has recently introduced similar legislation, it is my understanding that, since the 1st January 2021, Scotland is no longer subject to EU legislation, and therefore these GDPR regulations no longer apply. If National Museums Scotland is working from a different set of national data protection laws, could they please cite which they are so their claim can be verified. Either way, it seems entirely implausible that any such regulations apply to information relating to a gift that was made 75 years ago. If they do, as Pieter expresses above, we may as well all give up on the idea of conducting any further provenance research.

National Museums Scotland,

National Museums Scotland are absolutely delighted with the fantastic responses and would like to thank everyone for their contribution, especially Kieran Owens.

Your responses have been passed to our Curators who are very excited and are currently following up on the information offered. We will be back in touch with more information soon.

Osmund Bullock,

Though my knowledge of the details of Data Protection legislation is limited, I have read several times of the exasperation of the Information Commissioner with people who misinterpret it and/or enforce it too tightly, ignoring its provision for a degree of flexibility where public benefit can be shown and no individual harm is remotely likely. I fully agree with Pieter and Kieran that protecting the identity of a donor from 1946 is manifestly absurd. The number of people in their 20s who donate portraits to museums must be close to zero; and the simple arithmetic is that if the donor was 25 or over in 1946 then they are over 100 today (or more likely dead).

To which individual public gallery or museum was the donation made in 1946, and was it not mentioned in the annual report to the trustees of accessions during the year? If so then it is likely the information is already in the public domain - unless, of course, the donor specifically insisted on anonymity, in which case I can see it becomes more complicated...but after 75 years only a little.

Many people here are aware that Christie's operates a 50-year bar on releasing information about both vendor and buyer of lots they process, as they did before the regulations came in. I have several times recently been given full details of names and addresses relating to sales in the 1950s & 60s; and yet as far as I am aware, no staff member or director of the company has ever been challenged about this, let alone prosecuted.

So although NMS's post above is very much appreciated as far as it goes, I sincerely hope that the "more information" promised will include the much-needed details of where the portrait came from - without it (and perhaps not even then) it's highly unlikely we'll be able to identify the sitter with confidence. I already have much more to post about this, and the likelihood of Hutchinson being our man; but I'll be doing no more research now, and making no more contributions to the discussion, unless we receive a more helpful response. I'm sorry to be so blunt, but the Collection needs to be fully aware of how strongly a number of us feel about this.

Kieran Owens,

I would suggest that this Data Protection issue be one that the Art UK management team urgently addresses and that it makes available somewhere on the website exactly what the post-Brexit legislative reality is now in the UK in this regard. It would be rather unfortunate if the organisation, its collection partners and/or any of its Art Detective contributors were to have a legal action taken against them for breaching current relevant UK law by revealing some piece of seemingly-harmless information that pertains to our collective and well-intended efforts to improve the qualitative knowledge relating to the public art of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland etc..

Jacob Simon,

I have experience at a distance (fortunately) of Date Protection issues. I agree that the legislation is used in an overly bureaucratic manner by some institutions. However, I'd strongly advise Art UK NOT to get involved. It is a distraction.

Instead of a legal approach, I suggest a low key practical attitude. To take the case in hand, it seems to me that donors to the institution would be disappointed to know that the collection was refusing to acknowledge such a very basic matter as their generosity.

Louis Musgrove,

Data Protection may be difficult, but wait until the De-Colonisation officers are appointed and start to Deaccession anything with a colonial or Imperial link! I know of a museum that has just appointed one.

I agree that there's scope for flexibility in this instance and that a pragmatic approach is called for. I understand that the collection is looking again at its donor files to try to move things forward.

Kieran Owens,

Louis, I am not so sure that the Thought Police are quite at the front door yet. The De-Colonistation process is, I understand, one of addition, rather than subtraction, allowing for previously unheard or un-permitted views to be presented beside, rather than instead of, the official history as written by past victors.

In this regard, it might be remembered that it is not just countries and cultures from which black people were enslaved (though fully accepting its horrors for those peoples) that are still having difficulties with the present-day impact of their colonial past.

To be able to cope with these emotional issues and to move forward positively, sometimes all that is required is an enlightened attitude and a spirit of understanding and forgiveness:

All of that said, it might be useful to remember the effects on books of temperatures above Fahrenheit 451. I believe that the combustion temperature for cotton canvas is 407 and is probably lower given the inclusion of oil-based paints.

As John Philpott Curran is credited as saying in 1770, in his speech upon his election as Lord Mayor of Dublin: "The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance."

It will be interesting to see how this portrait fares if ever the true identity of its sitter is discovered.

Jacob Simon,

We are wandering from the subject of this discussion in recent posts.

Kieran referred on 23 June to "Hutchison's account of his career, dated 10/6/1823 (Commonwealth Office file) CO 267/74" in the National Archives. Unless someone else is on the case, I'll try to look at this on my visit to Kew scheduled for 5 August.

Osmund Bullock,

It was originally on my list of tasks, Jacob; but as I’ve stopped work on this thread pro tem, please feel free.

Incidentally, perhaps equally or more important (but prohibitively time-consuming) are the other Colonial Office correspondence books in CO 267 that, judging from footnotes in the 1962 George Maclean biography I referenced a fortnight ago (, include a fair number to and from Hutchison. The volumes seem to be well-ordered, with “a contents list, or précis of each letter giving name of correspondent, date of letter and subject matter” and individual correspondents are listed alphabetically - see There are also apparently general registers covering the correspondence at CO 326 ( and also an indexed précis of correspondence at CO 714 ( The local (Sierra Leone) Government Gazettes of the time at CO 271 ( might be fruitful, too.

Perhaps one day some serious student writing a doctoral thesis may get to grips with it all, but the job is clearly beyond the scope of the screen-glued, research-light, Aspergerish lunatics of Art me, that is, not you.

Dr Calum Robertson, Curator, Modern & Military History has commented by email, 09/07/21

'National Museums Scotland would like to thank all the contributors to this Art Detective discussion, in particular, Kieran Owens, who we believe has correctly identified the sitter.

The portrait was acquired in 1946 from a now defunct firm of solicitors in Edinburgh. At the time of acquisition, the law firm were unsure of the picture’s provenance, but believed that the painting had come into their possession through a family they had formerly represented named Hutcheson.

Pulling this evidence together with the information provided by Kieran and others, leads us to believe that the sitter is indeed Captain William Hutchison. We are doing further work towards identifying the sitter in our documentation and interpretation of the painting, drawing on the richness of information that has been offered here. This will take time, and we will be in touch again on this. In the meantime, we thank you again for this extraordinary response.'

Jacob Simon,

The acquisition information put forward by the collection today confirms the identification as Captain William Hutchison (sometimes given as 'Hutchinson'), 1791-1833, beyond all reasonable doubt.

On this basis, I recommend that we close this discussion, subject to input from the other group leaders, on the basis that we have answered the question, "What more can we establish about the sitter in this portrait of an unknown officer?"

As to the artist, we have been unable to answer this question. While the National Archives contains some papers as spelt out above (7 July), official papers are most unlikely to contain such information.

That sounds a remarkable, astonishingly lucky, and very satisfactory conclusion, and one that should also be of some interest in Ghana given the subsequent local distinction there of Hutchison's elder son Robert (d. 1863). It certainly justifies my earlier comment (16 June) following Osmund's production of this African link with Robert's photo at the end ( that 'the apple doesn't fall far from the tree' in broad features resemblance.

Artist - and where painted - of course remain an open questions. One has to assume that Hutchison was first owner and that it remained in Scotland after his death, which suggests a lateral shift if both his part-African sons went back to Ghana (though do we know if the second one did?).

Given the presence of Danes (and possibly Germans) on the Gold Coast it might just be worth pursing that line: not that it was painted there, but perhaps by some visiting artist he met in Scotland through old trade contacts there. A remote chance but not impossible.

Jacob Simon,

I repeat my recommendation of 9 July to close this discussion.

Marcie Doran,

A final suggestion for artist after some research today.

Hutchison took over from Major-General Sir Neil Campbell (1776–1827) according to the attachment of Kieran Owens, 18/06/2021 18:20. A painting of Campbell by Casimir Carbonnier is on Wikipedia.{LPARENTHESES} British_Army_officer)

I have attached a composite of the images of the two men. There are certainly many similarities (penholder on desk vs hat, hands, mouth, and position of body).

Jacinto Regalado,

Carbonnier was evidently a more accomplished painter; our portrait is much more ordinary, not to say prosaic.

Could one of our 'composite' specialists extract the photo of his son Robert from the bottom of this Facebook post (, perhaps flip it L to R andput the two heads alongside? I think it would show a telling resemblance to wrap up with.