Photo credit: National Trust for Scotland, Culloden Battlefield & Visitor Centre
This unidentified portrait of a Jacobite lady is one of a small number of pre-Proscription* pictures of women wearing tartan.
The tartan, faithfully reproduced in the painting, is Murray of Tullibardine. Can we therefore hazard a guess at the identification of the sitter? She appears to be aged roughly 18–35 and the style and fineness of her jacket indicate a lady/family of wealth. The white rose represents a Jacobite supporter and it was probably painted in the 1740s, most likely 1745–1746.
We cannot be certain that she was a Murray, but several possible contenders for her identity amongst this strongly Jacobite clan are listed in the attachment.
She has also been identified as Jenny Cameron, daughter of Cameron of Lochiel and alleged mistress of Bonnie Prince Charlie.
The collection comments: ‘Traditionally, the sitter is attributed as Flora MacDonald. However, it has been suggested that the lady is Jenny (or Jean) Cameron who might be an amalgamate of more than one lady.’
*The Act of Proscription 1746 banned the wearing of Highland dress (thus tartan) in Scotland and reiterated the Disarming Act, both of which were intended to crush Jacobite support among the Scottish clans following the Jacobite Rising of 1745.
She looks fairly young, probably less than 20. Has the picture been cut down? It looks somewhat truncated, as if it was originally 3/4 or even full length.
A discussion by Felicity Lowde regarding this portrait and the symbolism of the roses present can be read here:
The dates for Jenny Cameron, of whom there may have been more than one, are apparently not definite, so that is unlikely to help.
There are contemprary specimens of this tartan still in the possession of the Murray family at Blair Castle which, whilst not definitive, certainly confirms that family's association with the tartan of the portrait at the time.
This does not look like the portrait of a mistress; it is much more likely to be one of a duke's daughter.
If this picture was painted ca. 1745-46, the most likely candidates based on age are Jane and Charlotte Murray, daughters of the 2nd Duke of Atholl, and their cousin Amelia Murray, daughter of his brother George. However, the 2nd Duke of Atholl did not join the Jacobite rising of 1745 and took the king's side, while Lord George Murray did join the 1745 rising as he had also joined the Jacobite rebellions of 1715 and 1719. Thus, it is much more likely for this to be a portrait of a member of a militant Jacobite family, which favors Amelia Murray (1732-77).
The problem with it being Amelia Murrey is that that would make her roughly 14 when the picture was painted and the sitter looks older IMO.
The fact that the Duke supported the Crown does not mean that his daughters would not have been sympathetic. The Murrays of Ochtertyre had a similar situation where the father was a Hanoverian officer yet had his daughter painted with overtly Jacobite symbolism. https://www.scottishtartans.co.uk/Murray_of_Ochtertyre.pdf
With this in mind, the daughter of the 1st Duke of Atholl, Lady Mary Murray, is possible candidates, especially as herfather was dead by the time of the '45 and herhalf-brother was chief and 2nd Duke of Atholl. Or possibly one of the 2nd Duke's daughters:
Lady Jane Murray (died 1747 so possibly less likely)
Lady Charlotte Murray
Since Lady Mary Murray was born in 1720, that might fit. I tend to doubt this is either Jane or Charlotte Murray, since they were both young enough to be still firmly under their father's control, and the 2nd Duke was clearly on the Hanoverian side.
There is a portrait his brother, the Lord George Murray who was Amelia's father, at Blair Castle. Is it known who painted it?
This is the portrait of Lord George Murray I mentioned above:
While the age of the sitter in our portrait is open to debate, I do not think it is out of the question that it could be a "mature" 14-year-old in grown-up dress. In other words, I think Amelia Murray remains a possibility.
Cosmo Alexander, of course, was a Jacobite who fled Scotland after Culloden. Interestingly, he taught the very young Gilbert Stuart, who became one of the foremost American portrait painters, notably of George Washington.
One reason I think the sitter could be a very young girl is that there's something about the way her face is painted that vaguely reminds me of the young girls of Balthus, albeit without the Lolita factor. That may well be stretching things too far, but there it is.
I know the portrait of Lord George, there is no artist's signature and the archavist at Blair Castle doesn't know who painted it.
When I look at the portrait of the Unknown Woman I see a slim sitter painted with the suggestion of a bust and wearing a feminised version of a male Riding Coat. Both elements suggest someone older than 14, especially in the mid-18th century.
No doubt it varies, but 14-year-old girls can have a visible bust.
Is anything relevant known about Lady Mary Murray's history around the time the portrait was presumably painted? Her father died in 1724. She did not marry till 1749, so would have been single in 1745-46. Her older brother Lord John Murray had a distinguished military career as a Hanoverian, not a Jacobite. It may be that she had Jacobite sympathies, but there can be little question that Amelia Murray did.
I'm afraid I know nothing relevant about Lady Mary Murray's history around the time the portrait was painted. That does not mean it doesn't exist. The family records at Blair Castle are considerable but they have not been digitised.
We should not rely too heavily upon the tartan. Scottish castles display numerous old family portraits with the sitters wearing a wide assortment of plaids. The codification of tartan patterns as exclusive to specific families was a 19th century phenomenon — cooked up to promote the sale of woolens.
It would appear from the linked article by Mr. MacDonald that the tartan in the picture exactly matches the pattern of that of Murray of Tullibardine. However, if Jenny Cameron is still a candidate for the sitter, does that mean she could have worn that tartan pattern?
Jacinto, it does not. The Tullibardine tartan is interestiing in having been used by/associated with a number of unrelated people in the mid-18th century.
Peter, did you mean that the tartan was worn by others besides the Murrays but not by Jenny Cameron?
Yes, by others outside the Murray clan. I'm not saying that Jenny Cameron didn't wear it, just that there's no evidence that she did.
I follow on here from Peter's comment five days ago that this portrait suggests 'someone older than 14, especially in the mid-18th century.' I disagree with this because young girls were dressed as adults certainly by the age of 14 in the 18th century- and indeed for a long time before. The shape of their bodies was thereafter dictated by the heavy boned corsets they wore. The torso in this girl's portrait clearly shows shaping by such a corset. See attachment 1. I also add in 2 portraits of Marie Antoinette,- albeit from the 1770s and Royal, which show her aged 12 and then aged 17, very clearly wearing corsets in both portraits.
It is a matter of opinion and thus open to debate, but I still think the sitter could be a girl of 14, which leaves Amelia Murray, daughter of the confirmed and actively Jacobite Lord George Murray, as a prime candidate (though obviously there are others).
Fort what it may be worth, here's a photo of Annette Funicello ca. 1956, when she was 14, and she's not wearing a boned corset:
Intersting, but comparing (relatively) modern physical attributes with those of the mid-18th is not that helpful. I've examined a number of military jackets of the period and most are tiny by today's standards.
As you see- my comparison was between 1745 and early 1770s....
Here's a portrait of a young girl, ca. 1750, attributed to Philip Mercier. The face could easily be that of a 14-year-old, she's evidently wearing a corset, and she appears to have a bust:
This 1755 double portrait by Cosmo Alexander of The Ladies Barbara and Margaret Stuart is of interest, as there appears to be some facial resemblance between them and our younger sitter:
Mr Macdonald, I am puzzled by your apparent certainty that this is the tartan of Murray of Tullibardine during the mid-C18th. I was under the impression that until the C19th the sett of a tartan was at best only indicative of a geographical region (it tending to be common to the weavers of a general area); and that at this period it specifically cannot be said to relate to a particular clan or branch of one, except inasmuch as there might be a preponderance of that clan's members in the area. And is it actually known that the contemporary specimens of the same tartan at Blair Castle relate to Murray family members, or just assumed to be so - and if so, which one(s)?
Sorry, Mr MacDonald, having read the thread more carefully I find that you have already more than acknowledged this issue; and that you discuss it at length in various extremely interesting and well-researched pieces elsewhere on the internet - particularly the one you have already linked us to (https://bit.ly/2XgD6Li). That in turn links us to a very detailed discussion of the surviving specimens of the tartan at Blair Castle that answers my final questions: https://bit.ly/2ZZR4xR.
I note especially the words you use in your conclusion to the latter: "A logical explanation has been offered for the naming of the pattern as Tullibardine and later Murray of Tullibardine although the evidence for its historic use by that branch is circumstantial at best, whereas the Blair Castle and Dunmore associations indicate a pattern more likely to be connected with Atholl and/or Highland Perthshire in some way."
I also enjoyed and was much informed by this Q&A piece for Collectors Weekly in which you explain with clarity and authority the history of kilts and tartans in more general terms: https://bit.ly/2XLpqrj. I was particularly interested in the wording of the 1746 Proscription (Dress) Act, which as you show did not apply to women; didn't really apply to tartan fabric per se anyway, only its use in specified styles of dress and only in Scotland; and was in any case clearly ignored by many of higher rank in the most public way imaginable (portraits).
Taken together, though, this does leave us with a much less certain idea than I'd imagined from the intro of who this young woman may be. She's self-evidently of high status, and she might be a Murray...but might equally very well not be. The portrait, moreover, might be dated pre-Proscription on stylistic grounds (I am no expert on him)...but there is nothing in the subject and attributes that means it must be, and it could be somewhat later - indeed its small and atypical size (c.18 x 14 in) might suggest something that could easily be concealed...and/or that it could easily be transported back from the continent (if it is indeed by Cosmo Alexander). Has it had any sort of basic technical examination, I wonder, as to canvas type or signs of reduction in size?
Finally, I am a bit concerned that although the painting is on loan to a public collection, it is actually owned privately. The Drambuie art collection's recent history is complex and multi-layered - I don't imagine you'd be any more thrilled than me if our, and especially your pro bono efforts added significant value to this work, only to have the loan withdrawn and the picture sold on the open market.
Dear Osmund, I'm afraid I'm have no knowledge about the actual contruction of the portrait, that's well out of my area of expertise.
I agree about the Drambuie Collection's recent history beng a concern. That said, I think that this portrait is sufficiently important that, if it were ever to be offered for sale, it would a target for the National Gallery. Peter
Thanks, Peter - I tend to agree on the last point.