Scotland: Artists and Subjects, Sculpture 42 Who is the sitter in this sculpture by Alexander Brodie?

EDI_HSE_DH1998_10-001
Topic: Subject or sitter

The sitter cannot be Edward VII (1841–1910). Apart from the fact that this looks nothing like Edward VII, the marble bust was sculpted in Aberdeen in 1861 when the Prince was only 20, and he was clean shaven until at least his marriage in 1863.

Several of Alexander Brodie's works are listed on 'Mapping Sculpture': https://bit.ly/2w36Tu3

This work is inscribed 'Abdn / 1861'. Brodie exhibited a sculpture of ‘Col Leith-Hay CB’ in 1861. This refers to Colonel Alexander Sebastian Leith-Hay (1818–1900) of Rannes and Leith Hall, Aberdeenshire. Could this discussion’s work be that sculpture, perhaps commissioned in honour of Leith-Hay’s retirement from the army, which was effective 21 December 1860, and completed the following year when he was 43?

This sitter’s robe is adorned with what appears to be a Scottish regimental medal with a thistle in the middle. cf. Medal of the Royal Scots: https://bit.ly/38l1ixJ (but it’s neither this, nor the badge of the 93rd Highlanders in which Leith-Hay served)

Leith-Hay was made a Commander of the Order of the Bath, Knight of the Legion of Honour and of the Order of the Medjidie, but the medal pictured here is apparently not any of those (but I am no expert) – see attachment detail. Leith-Hay’s medals are shown in this 1868 portrait by John MacLaren Barclay. https://bit.ly/2ON4r1o

The 1861 sculpture of Leith-Hay may be a red herring. Could anyone confirm this sitter’s identity please?

Marion Richards, Art Detective Manager, Entry reviewed by Art UK

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42 comments

Bill Ellson,

The 'adornment' is the star of the Order of the Thistle (photo of c. 1780 star attached), i.e. the man depicted was a Knight of the Thistle (KT). The Order of the Thistle is the greatest order of chivalry in Scotland https://www.royal.uk/order-thistle

There are only 16 Knights at any one time. A list of Knights of the Thistle here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Knights_and_Ladies_of_the_Thistle

There is a resemblance to Archibald Montgomerie, 13th Earl of Eglinton https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archibald_Montgomerie,_13th_Earl_of_Eglinton

(Edward VII was not made a KT until 1867, definitely not him.)

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Meagan Blyth,

I think Bill's case for Archibald is a strong one. It might just be me, but the formation of his beard for one seems consistent with the shape of it in other illustrations, most notable to compare being this mezzotint of the Earl. http://onlinecollection.nationalgallery.ie/objects/647/archibald-william-montgomerie-13th-earl-of-eglinton-and-win;jsessionid=B9D75C960BB977A2049C8897C1EB4BC0?ctx=ae80ce51-15c6-4524-8584-a9ac151be466&idx=5

The wikipedia article Bill linked shows a fully bearded and moustached earl - as he was shown in Illustrated London News October 19, 1861. Vol 39. No 1113 as a supplement to his obituary found on page no. 409; after a photograph by 'John and Charles Watkins of Parliment Street'. This photograph may be of some use to identify the features in the sculpture versus the man himself.

It seems his death was fairly sudden. He died in 1861, the same year of the bust's creation. https://archive.org/stream/illustratedlondov39lond#page/408/mode/2up

Osmund Bullock,

If it's intended for the Order of the Thistle (and on balance I suppose it must be), it's a surprisingly poor representation of it in several ways. Most significantly, the angles of the main rays and bars as carved imply there would be five or six of each on the full star, instead of the correct four. Had the artist never seen one - or did he just want to show more of it, and cheated the angles?

Jacinto Regalado,

Eglinton had a cleft chin, which is not present in the bust.

Kieran Owens,

Marion, could you find out where it is exactly that this bust is to be found? Would Historic Environment Scotland have any further details regarding its accession into their collection?

Kieran Owens,

Also, please be so kind as to post a hi-res image of the decoration.

Kieran Owens,

Oops, ignore my last request Marion! I have just spotted your initial attachment.

Is the bust signed? If not, is the collection sure that it is by Alexander and not his brother William?

Osmund Bullock,

The bust is clearly signed 'ALEX.R BRODIE / SCULP.T ABD.N / 1861' - see image #4 of those on Art UK.

You are right, though, Kieran, to draw attention to the supposed bust of the 5th Earl of Fife in the same collection, as Lord Fife is in fact almost certainly the correct subject of *our* bust, not the other. If you look carefully at the image (#4 again) of the signature on the other, 'Fife' one (https://bit.ly/39vnK7i), you'll see an old label inscribed 'King Edward'. I feel sure the two busts had a common source, and their identities have inexplicably become confused. Inexplicably because there is a label, because it looks like the Prince of Wales, and because Lord Fife was never a Knight of the Garter (as shown on the bust). He was, though, a Knight of the Thistle which he received in 1860 at the age of 46.

The circumstantial case is however much stronger than that, as I will explain shortly (but need a while to pull it all together).

Jacinto Regalado,

I was so focused on the sculptor's signature (J. Steell) that I ignored the paper label on the nominal Earl of Fife, but yes, he could be a young Edward VII as Prince of Wales. He looks like his mother.

Bill Ellson,

Perhaps the discussion of the 'Earl of Fife' bust should be separate. It does not appear to have any relevance to the Brodie bust.

Jacinto Regalado,

If Osmund is correct, Bill, as I expect he is, the faux Fife bust is quite relevant to the investigative process here, and may indeed have been a key clue to the identity of the subject of the Brodie bust (though no doubt Osmund will explain further).

Osmund Bullock,

I beg your pardon Jacinto - it was you, not Kieran who pointed out the (not) Lord Fife bust.

It is definitely Steell's bust of the Prince of Wales. The original marble was carved for the Royal High School, Edinburgh, which the Prince had attended some years earlier, and exhibited at the (London) International Exhibition of 1862. See attached woodcut from the Illustrated London News. There's also a small photo of it in situ at the school's Assembly Hall here: https://bit.ly/37rNQ9Y.

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Bill Ellson,

There are a number of portraits of the 5th Earl of Fife that are consistent with Prout's 1863 photograph.

Fife had a mustache and full beard as a continuous mass of hair, not the clearly separate mustache and carefully trimmed beard of the Brodie bust above.

I have put forward evidence, if others want to allude to 'circumstantial cases' that they 'need a while to pull it all together' then that is up to them, but I am leaving this discussion.

Osmund Bullock,

I take your point, Bill, but I don't think we'll need another discussion in an open-and-shut case like this - Marion will inform the Collection of the correct (P. of Wales) identity in due course. Meanwhile, however, as Jacinto correctly suggests, it is the mixed-up identities of *both* busts (or so I believe) that adds considerably to the case for our one being Lord Fife.

Osmund Bullock,

If you were to stay, Bill - and I'm sorry you feel you have to go, this is nothing personal - you would indeed hear my case, which is pretty strong (but like yours, only an opinion). I will also give reasons why I think Eglinton is less likely, along with a plausible explanation for the difference in Lord Fife's moustache and beard shape. I may not manage to post it tonight, I'm sorry, but it's 4 a.m. and I occasionally need to sleep.

Re: https://bit.ly/3bBEpbg
There's no need to discuss the identity of this bust in the same collection (currently misidentified as 'James Duff, 1814–1879, 5th Earl of Fife'), as it is definitely the Prince of Wales. I'll inform Historic Environment Scotland about the cataloguing error and correct it on Art UK.

A brief intervention at this point from your Moderator:
I think the bust in question is probably at Duff House, north east of Aberdeen, the only period house of its kind in the holdings of Historic Environment Scotland.

I would also like to say that research is never a race to a finish, and all sorts of interesting, incidental things turn up along the way. Let's wait for all your good searches to be completed, and then I, if I may, will sum up.

Jacinto Regalado,

However, if one looks at the background of the images for both busts under discussion, it is evident that they are both in the same place, possibly in the same room.

Kieran Owens,

The Aberdeen Press & Journal of Wednesday 10th July 1861 carried the following notice:

"Art - A marble bust of the Earl of Fife by our townsman, Mr. A. Brodie, is at present to be seen in Messrs. Hay & Lyall's window, Market Street. The likeness of the noble Earl is very good, and the drapery is admirably simple and effective. The general opinion seems to be that this is the best work of the rising artist."

Ten days later the Aberdeen Herald reported thus:

"We observe, in one of Messrs. Hay & Lyall's windows, a very fine bust in marble, by Mr. A. Brodie, of Lady Anne Duff, eldest daughter of the Earl of Fife. The artistic skill displayed in furnishing the drapery, as well as in the principal parts of the bust, is very great."

The Peterhead Sentinal, of the 15th November 1861, noted:

"The memorial to be erected by his tenantry in memory of the late Duke of Richmond has taken the shape of a statue, to be erected in the market square of Huntly. The execution of the statue, which is to be of colossal size, has been entrusted to Mr. Alex. Brodie, a rising and talented artist, whose busts of the Earl and Countess of Fife were recently on view here....."

If the whereabouts of the busts of the Countess and Lady Anne could be established perhaps a comparison of their styles might help in confirming this bust's sitter.

Alexander Brodie died on the morning of Thursday 30th May 1867. The Dundee Courier carried the melancholy news that "at the age of 37", and following a recent weakening of his mind, "on Wednesday morning he made a rash attempt to take his own life. Although proper medical attention, promptly applied, gave hope of recovery, that hope, we deeply regret to say, has not been realised, for Mr. Brodie expired on Thursday morning."

Jacinto Regalado,

Our bust, of course, is dated 1861, which is not conclusive proof but certainly suggestive that it could Brodie's known bust of the Earl of Fife. We await Osmund's presentation of his case.

Jacinto Regalado,

I meant that ours could *be* Brodie's 1861 bust of the Earl of Fife.

Osmund Bullock,

Sorry, Jacinto, I'm just very busy at the moment - I expect Kieran will have found everything before I manage to produce my promised post!

The bust is an interesting find. I suppose it might be the one of Lady Ann(e) Duff (or that of her friend Miss Gordon Cumming of Altyre, modelled at the same time during a visit to Duff House in the autumn of 1860 - both works exhibited at the RSA in 1861); but it seems surprisingly immodest for an aristocratic portrait. One of the reports I was/am going to post has a brief description of it, I think; and I also have a number of of photos of her from Aug 1863, so we can compare features...but that'll have to wait a day or two as well.

Kieran Owens,

In the vast majority of references to her, the daughter of the 5th Earl of Fife is named Anne.

Jacinto Regalado,

No problem, Osmund. I am sure your report will be worth the wait.

Jacinto Regalado,

I suppose the female bust linked above might be a character rather than an actual person, which would explain the relative immodesty.

Jacinto Regalado,

There are many works by William Brodie on Art UK, but this is the only one by his brother Alexander.

Kieran Owens,

William Brodie's long list of works shown at the Royal Scottish Academy appears here, which a mention in 1868 of his completed bust of Queen Victoria as begun by his brother Alexander:

https://bit.ly/2SLvmfc

Strangely, there are no exhibition submissions listed for the RSA under the name of Alexander Brodie.

Kieran Owens,

Jacinto, I have searched ArtUK for the name William Brodie and no results are returned. Would you mind letting me know how you searched for him?

Jacinto Regalado,

Yes, Andrew, and as all too often, many works have no image, which rather defeats the purpose of Art UK, even if it is better than no listing at all. For larger collections, there are typically a significant number of entries like that, which really should be corrected (though no doubt there are staffing problems and competing priorities).

Kieran Owens,

Thank you both, I do not know why that failed to work for me as easily. Anyway...

William Brodie showed 260 works at the RSA and there are only 36 shown on the ArtUK website. There are many more to identify.

Also, although on the Scotland's People website there are Banff birth records from William (10th February 1815), a Janet (20th August 1816) and John (24th April 1819) as the children of John Brodie and Mary Walker, there are none for Alexander in 1829 or 1830.

It would appear from the 1851 Scottish census that Alexander had a sister Elizabeth, who is listed as having been born in 1827, although there is no (obvious) official record for her birth as one of John and Mary's legitimate children. Alexander and Elizabeth were living with their widowed father John (a "retired seaman") at 8 Catto Square, Aberdeen in that year.

As John's wife Mary died aged c.60 in April 1846, she would have been born in 1786. This means that she was 41 when Elizabeth was born and 44 when Alexander was born, a little old, perhaps for having children in that era. I wonder if Elizabeth and Alexander were adopted in some way by John and Mary.

Jacinto Regalado,

Kieran, I expect a great many of William Brodie's works, especially busts, are in private hands or not in art institutions.

Jacinto, concerning the missing images, I’d like to explain that Art UK’s Sculpture Project is ongoing, and not due to be completed until the end of 2020. The funds raised meant that only a certain percentage of the sculptures in collections could be photographed. Art UK will work towards adding more photography (even if it's archival or record/not studio based) after the main project is concluded.

Jacinto Regalado,

I understand, Marion, but my comment was not limited to sculpture. The same applies to art objects in general. Again, I realise there are probably staffing limitations and other priorities at the various collections, since no doubt everyone would ideally want and benefit from all entries on Art UK having images.

Osmund Bullock,

Re two points raised by Kieran yesterday; when you say there are no exhibition submissions listed at the RSA under the name of Alexander Brodie, I would guess that you are looking at the 1917 'The Royal Scottish Academy 1826- I916'. Unfortunately that work basically lists only works exhibited at the RSA by associates & academicians (or artists who later became one). William Brodie (a better artist) was, from 1852 & 1859 respectively...but not Alexander.

The information on Alexander's exhibiting at the RSA came from the 'Mapping Sculpture' website: https://bit.ly/2HxmfJV. And though you are right that the name of the 5th Earl of Fife's eldest daughter is normally (and doubtless correctly) spelled 'Anne', the listing there is as 'Lady Ann Duff'. The mistake may be the website's, but it is equally likely that it was the RBA's - that was all I was reflecting when I wrote 'Ann(e)'. I am hoping to get to the Heinz Archive this week to look for more images of possible sitters (especially Lord Fife), and I'll check the full 'Royal Scottish Academy exhibitors, 1826-1990' book (1991) while I'm there.

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