Completed Dress and Textiles, Portraits: British 19th C, Scotland: Artists and Subjects 33 Who is this sitter and how did it come to Lewis?

Portrait of an Unknown Woman
Topic: Subject or sitter

Can we establish the sitter’s identity in this portrait by Hubert von Herkomer?

Edward Stone, Entry reviewed by Art UK

Completed, Outcome

This discussion is now closed. The sitter has been identified as Julia, Marchioness of Tweeddale (1846–1937). The portrait was exhibited at The New Gallery in 1888.

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

32 comments

The Collection has commented: ‘This fine portrait is something of a mystery. The identity of the sitter and how it came to Lewis are not known. Lord Leverhulme is perhaps a reasonable guess as the person who brought the painting to Lewis during his short time as owner of the island (1918–1923). Lord Leverhulme had a keen interest in the arts and was a great collector. Herkomer was a fashionable and highly regarded artist of his day. Another of his paintings is in the collections of the Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight, established by Lord Leverhulme. Our research into the painting continues and we would welcome any help as to the identity of the sitter or an explanation as to how a painting by this well-known artist may have come to Lewis. Elizabeth Ellen Hulme (wife of William Hesketh Lever) and Lady Seaforth Mackenzie (Frances Mackenzie née Herber, wife of Kenneth Mackenzie 4th Earl of Seaforth) are amongst those previously suggested. It used to hang in Lews Castle when it was used as a college. It had likely been left behind by Lord Leverhulme when he sold the island. When the castle was being renovated in 1989 it was removed by the Council and given to the museum collections.’

Jacinto Regalado,

Herkomer did not show a female portrait at the Royal Academy in 1887. In 1888, he showed one of Mrs. Arthur Sassoon. In 1889, he showed portraits of Lady Eden and Mrs. Gladstone.

Scott Thomas Buckle,

I think that this is most probably Herkomer's portrait of Julia, Marchioness of Tweedale, which was exhibited at The New Gallery in 1888 (no.113). Although not illustrated in New Gallery Notes for that year, it is described as '...in black evening dress, relieved by crimson, seated in Louis XV chair, holding a large black fan; red background.' A photograph of the Marchioness dating from three years later is in the J Paul Getty Museum: https://www.getty.edu/art/collection/objects/45215/john-thomson-julia-tweeddale-scottish-1891/

Jacinto Regalado,

In 1887, the date of the picture, the lady in question was married to Sir John Rose, 1st Baronet Rose, who died in 1888. Her prior husband, the 9th Marquess Tweeddale, died in 1878.

Osmund Bullock,

Well done, Scott. There are numerous newspaper references to the work's exhibition at the New Gallery in May 1888 (it divided opinion – see attached), but none has the wonderfully detailed description you found. Also attached is an earlier piece that suggests Herkomer had previously submitted it that same year to the Royal Academy, along with three other female portraits; in the event only one (Mrs Arthur Sassoon) was accepted, along with several male ones.

The (presumed) sitter married Sir John Rose, Bt, on 24 Jan 1887; I would guess from the very clear prominence being given the ring(s) on her finger that this was an engagement portrait, though it may not have been finished until after they were married: their engagement was announced only a little over a month before the wedding. Its title "Julia, Marchioness of Tweedale" is exactly the correct form for the widow of a marquess who has not re-married (the new Marquess's wife would just be 'the Marchioness of xxxx' without a first name). So the painting’s title is indeed slightly odd, as by time of the New Gallery exhibition she’d been plain ‘Lady Rose’ for well over a year. Perhaps she was reluctant to lose sight of her previous, higher aristocratic status, and chose to leave the painting’s title as it probably would have been when she first sat for it. I somehow suspect that if she’d been the widow of a baronet who’d married a marquess she might have made a different decision...

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Osmund Bullock,

Ah no, it was more straightforward than that, but rather puzzling – I don’t know if this was normal for a titled lady ‘marrying down’, but as far as press reports go (of which there are dozens), it seems that Lady Rose continued to be known as ‘Julia, Marchioness of Tweeddale’ throughout her brief marriage to Sir John – even when the couple were attending social events together they were almost never referred to as ‘Sir John and Lady Rose’. So the ring(s) being displayed may be engagement *and* wedding, and the portrait in celebration of her marriage.

I find it hard to believe this was technically correct, as she held no title in her own right, only by marriage; but I will seek the opinion of a higher authority.

Tom Hughes 02,


I am very interested in Julia, Dowager Marchioness of Tweeddale. She was married to the much older Marquis for only five years but clutched his title for the rest of her long life. In 1884-1885, she was (privately) accused by Lady Susan Bourke of having an affair with her husband, Robert Bourke, a prominent Tory M.P. The Bourkes went out to India in November 1886 (he was named the new Governor of Madras) where their marital hostilities continued. Coincidence or not, she married Sir John Rose two months later. He dropped dead a year and a half later. She married a third time in 1892, to a retired military man. She never had children. She was a "pretty little dowager," according to Henry James. Victorianga@aol.com

Can we explain how Lord Leverhulme came by the portrait, only to leave it in Lews Castle when he moved on, if indeed this is what happened?


Mark Wilson,

Osmund, I think you may be confusing what you might call Court Etiquette, which seeks to accurately reflect someone's current social status with what you might call Press Etiquette, which seeks to make then sound as important as possible, so as to print gossip about them. There is also an element of continuity in this case. If you've been referring to someone by one name, you don't want to confuse your readers by another. Because it's what people read all the time, Press Etiquette becomes the accepted way of describing people, maybe even how they refer to themselves - especially as it makes them sound more important.

Julia married a third time in 1892 to the colonial officer William Evans-Gordon who was later an MP and knighted and actually younger than her. Various dates are summarised here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Evans-Gordon#Family_life

She didn't actually die till 1937, outliving not just her husband (d 1913) but her siblings. So it seems unlikely that this portrait would have been in Leverhulme's hands in the early 20s or that such a fine picture would be the only one left behind by him or explicitly gifted with the Castle. It's possible but not likely that it was somehow acquired by the Mathesons who had the Castle before them and passed along with various other pictures that are now in the collection.

Jacob,

Lord Leverhulme bought Lews Castle & its estate of the Isle of Lewis in 1917 from Lt-Colonel Duncan Matheson, the great-nephew of Sir James Matheson, who had built the castle. Sir James died 31 December 1878 so wouldn’t have been able to acquire the Herkomer portrait himself.
Leverhulme is known to have added items to the Castle décor, in particular a set of Gobelins tapestries, which he bought in 1918, and which are now in the collections at the Lady Lever Art Gallery, the museum in Port Sunlight which he opened in 1922 for his collections. In September 1923 Leverhulme’s redevelopment plans for the Isle of Lewis and its town of Stornoway having been rejected by the residents he announced that he would leave the island and bequeath Lews Castle to the town of Stornoway. The fact that the tapestries, which we know were added to the Castle’s décor by Lever ended up at the Lady Lever, implies that he didn’t consider anything else in the Castle to be part of his collection otherwise that too would have been at the LLAG. Not all of Leverhulme’s huge collections of fine and decorat
ive art ended up in the LLAG as there were a series of sales in 1925 and 1926 after Leverhulme’s death in 1925. A list of the British 19thC paintings sold in those sales should be found in the Appendix to Edward Morris’s 'Catalogue of Victorian and Edwardian Paintings in the LLAG' (1994), of which unfortunately I don’t have a copy.
Perhaps the Group Leader for North-West England might be able to access a copy just to confirm that the Herkomer was not part of the sales?

Scott Thomas Buckle,

I looked through the Appendix to Edward Morris’s 'Catalogue of Victorian and Edwardian Paintings in the Lady Lever Art Gallery', but there is no mention of the Herkomer portrait. One work by Herkomer is recorded as being sold from Lever's collection at auction, 'Haymaking and Lovemaking' at the Knight, Frank and Rutley sale in Horwich, Lancashire 9-17 November 1925. A note in the Appendix states "A small number of works of art from Lever's collection were neither dispersed at these sales nor passed on to the Lady Lever Art Gallery, but were given to other institutions and individuals; no attempt has been made to include them in this list."
A second Appendix lists further works sold at auction between 1958 and 1961, but no works by Herkomer are amongst them.
I also have a catalogue for a much later sale of works from the Leverhulme Collection at Thornton Manor, 26-28 June 2001. Nothing relating to the Herkomer portrait appears to have been in this sale, but the catalogue includes a couple of photographs of the interiors of Thornton Manor at the time that Lever was living there. Many of the paintings upon the walls can easily be indentified, but sadly there is no sign of the Herkomer lady. These photographs, and others of the Manor's interiors are reproduced on the Historic England website: https://historicengland.org.uk/images-books/photos/results/?searchType=HE+Archive+New&search=thornton+manor&filteroption=images

Mark Wilson,

I suspect the collection have already worked this out, but there is a link between our sitter, Julia Stewart-Mackenzie, and Lewis and Stornoway. Her father Keith was the son of Mary Mackenzie (https://bit.ly/3yfdqNG) the heiress of Francis Mackenzie, 1st Baron Seaforth, chief of the Highland Clan Mackenzie. Mary inherited the Isle of Lewis from her father in 1815 and owned it from then until selling to James Matheson (who then built Lews Castle) in 1844. Here she is allowing the setting up of a town council for Stornoway for instance (https://bit.ly/3C3Ilyz).

Keith's father and Mary's second husband, James Alexander Stewart (https://bit.ly/3rHquc8) became Stewart-Mackenzie on marriage and was MP for Ross-shire and then Ross and Cromarty (both of which included Lewis) from 1831-37 and his death in 1843 may have been linked to the sale the following year.

Incidentally Julia's mother was Hannah Charlotte Hope-Vere, a daughter of Lady Elizabeth Hay, herself a daughter of George Hay, 7th Marquess of Tweeddale. So Julia's mother was a first cousin of Julia's first husband the 9th Marquess.

So there's a 'why' the portrait should be in Lewis, the perplexing question is 'how'. Unlike Julia's first husband, her second already had children from his previous marriage. When Sir John Rose died in August 1888, not long after this portrait was exhibited, it's possible his heir, Sir William wasn't completely sympathetic to Julia who had only been married a year or so, was the same age as him and, if Tom Hughes is to be believed, had a bit of a reputation. Sir William seems to have been a rather peremptory character anyway (https://bit.ly/3fhEiVB) and if he inherited the portrait he may have put it on the market to get rid of it or disposed of it some other way.

Alternatively it Julia retained the picture, it might have been given to the Council in her lifetime or via her heirs after her death in 1937. She seems to have been close to her sister, the hostess and politician Baroness St Helier (https://bit.ly/3zRCUB5) whose two daughters would be Julia's obvious heirs. They both didn't die till the mid-60s and the picture already seems to be in situ then, so an earlier, pre-War donation seems likely.

Another possible route, though less probably, is via Julia's paternal aunt, Louisa Stewart-Mackenzie (https://bit.ly/3rKoWxT) who was born in Seaforth Lodge, the predecessor of Lews Castle, and was a famous art collector with a delightfully scandalous private life.

Jacob, I have asked the Collection if they can add to the points made in response to your question from Xanthe, Scott and Mark. David

Osmund Bullock,

I managed to speak to the 'higher authority' on late C19th etiquette referred to above (23/07/2021 03:47) about Julia retaining her widowed Marchioness title after marriage to a mere baronet. Mark is half-right, but for the wrong reasons. It was not a matter of continuity, and of the Press or anyone else wanting to stick to her better-known name; nor was it, as I suggested, her personal choice. It was actually absolutely normal and completely accepted for a lady to continue to be referred to by a previous higher title when 'marrying down' - not to do so would have been surprising and very exceptional, the rationale apparently being that you never went down the social scale once you'd been up it. So if the marriages had been reversed in order, however famous she'd become as 'Lady Rose', the Press and everyone else would have immediately used her new title as soon as she married the Marquess; and if it had been the Marquess not Rose who died just 18 months later, despite the short marriage she would have stayed a (Dowager) Marchioness thereafter - in official Court announcements as well as the popular press. Unless she married a Duke, of course.

The Collection have commented: 'Unfortunately we don’t know how the painting came to be in Lord Leverhulme’s possession, or why it was left behind. This has been a mystery to us, particularly because Herkomer was a significant artist at the time. We would definitely be happy for the discovery to be publicised on Art UK – it’s been such a good result for us!'

Mark Wilson,

Osmund "half-right, but for the wrong reasons" - that's the story of my life. Apologies for the delayed reply and of course you're right it's a matter of convention for a woman to retain the highest title from her marriages

It may also go back before the 19th century as well. I recently saw a local, late 17th century, burial inscription recently for the infant daughter of the Countess of Donegall and a Mr Richard Rooth. Rather than some hidden scandal it turned out she had been widowed from the Earl and the two had been married for some 15 years at that point, but she retained her title and was referred to as such by for example Celia Fiennes.

Are we ready to close this discussion, "Who is this sitter and how did it come to Lewis?", on the basis that we have identified the sitter as Julia, Marchioness of Tweeddale (1846-1937, but not how the portrait came to Lewis? It was exhibited in 1888. Or are there further ideas? The collection (21 September) is happy with our progress.

Osmund Bullock,

Two finds that may possibly be worth further investigation.

In the Unilever Archives there is a short file of correspondence (three items) between Lord Leverhulme and 'Mrs Stewart Mackenzie of Seaforth' (of Brahan Castle) about the Harris Tweed Industry - it dates from Sep 1919, during his time at Lews Castle: https://bit.ly/3pvhCqY (also attached). This may possibly have led to, or derived from a personal acquaintance, though that wouldn't feature in his business records. I don't know where (if anywhere) his private correspondence is, but according to the ODNB papers relating to his art collection are held by the Lady Lever Gallery.

Mrs Stewart Mackenzie of Seaforth must at that date have been Mary Margaret nee Steinkopf (d. 1933), who in 1899 had married Lt. Col. James Alexander Francis Humberston Stewart-Mackenzie (1847-1923), 24th Laird. James was the brother of our sitter Julia Tweeddale, and was created Baron Seaforth of Brahan in Jan 1921. He had inherited Brahan Castle and what was left of the great Mackenzie estates on his father Keith's death in 1881, and lived there with his wife Mary, Lord Leverhulme's correspondent. Whether or not she knew Lever well, what is interesting and perhaps significant is that the Stewart-Mackenzies were apparently still involved with matters relating to the island and its people 75 years after their Mackenzie forbears had sold it to the Mathesons.

Osmund Bullock,

The other discovery relates to Brahan Castle, which passed in a very confusing chain of inheritance that I still don't fully understand from James & Mary (who had no issue) to a series of descendants of James's other sister Susan Mary Elizabeth Stanley nee Stewart-Mackenzie (d. 1931). Her elder daughter Madeline Cecilia Carlyle Stanley (1876-1966) married Viscount (later the Earl of) Midleton, and she and her husband were her aunt (and our sitter) Julia Tweedale's executors in 1937 (see attached). Brahan Castle was demolished in the early 1950s, after Madeline Midleton's two sons were both killed in action in Italy a day apart in 1943 - the elder, Francis Alan (b. 1910), had changed his surname from Brodrick to Stewart-Mackenzie, and neither brother had children. The estate and castle then passed to the progeny of Susan Stanley's younger daughter, Osma Mary Dorothy Stanley (1877-1965).

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Osmund Bullock,

The reason I've gone into all that complex detail is that among some photographs of the interior of Brahan Castle at the bottom of the page here https://bit.ly/3mi0Olr are two that, though very low-res and hard to make out, seem to show our portrait hanging in the castle's 'main hall'. See attached. The problem, though, is that they are not dated, so we're little the wiser. There is a lot more on the same website about the house and the Seaforth Mackenzies, but it's laid out confusingly and full or errors.

According to Historic Environment Scotland (https://bit.ly/3pAfHBh) James (Lord Seaforth) created by his Will (he d. March 1923) a trust that "still controls the inheritance today. The Castle was requisitioned during World War II after which it was returned to the Trustees who tried to find a tenant or a suitable use for it, but its condition was so poor that in 1952 it was demolished and the stables were converted into a residence. The present owners inherited the estate in 1963". However HES's narrative also has several errors earlier on, so I wouldn't take it as gospel.

This is probably getting too convoluted for Art Detective, but if the Collection wanted to pursue things further they might try getting in touch with the Trust and/or family members still possibly resident on the estate - the old stable block seems now to be the main residence and is called Brahan House.

Thank you for an abundance of new information for the collection, in addition to identifying the sitter as Julia, Marchioness of Tweeddale (1846–1937).

Osmund, the photographs at Brahan Castle are a great find. There's plenty more for the collection to follow up if they are interested, as you say, but we could close this discussion now, if all the group leaders agree.

The simple explanation-albeit requiring proof - is that the portrait was for some reason left in place by Leverhulme and eventually 'orphaned' to the point where it became a question of what to do with it. Someone then perhaps informally and sensibly passed it to the local collection before Brahan was demolished. Victorian art of many sorts was at a low point from the 1930s to 1950s and Herkomer is still not a name that rings popular bells

Osmund Bullock,

Actually I now think Leverhulme and his short period at Lews may be a complete red herring.

I have just noticed that the portrait hanging adjacent to Julia Tweeddale's in the interior photos of Brahan Castle is now at Fortrose Town Hall: https://bit.ly/3Ekq7JL. It was presented by the widowed Madel(e)ine, Countess of Midleton (1876-1966 - see second long post above) in 1952, the year of Brahan Castle's demolition, presumably on behalf of the Trustees. I don't have time just now to check the other Brahan Castle portraits shown at the foot of the page here https://bit.ly/3b6zpfx , but I suspect we'll find that several of these large works were distributed to Scottish collections with some family connection at the same time. And it seems quite likely that our portrait of Julia, Marchioness of Tweeddale was among them.

EDIT: Just quickly checked one other, and that, too, was given to Fortrose Town Hall in 1952: https://bit.ly/3vGFE3o

Jacinto Regalado,

Is it known or can it be determined when the picture came to Lews Castle?

I belatedly notice that, right at the top, we were told the portrait was in Lews Castle up to 1989 but not a start date for that, when it was in use as a 'college' (whatever/whoever that implies) and only then removed by the local council and passed to the museum. That's presumably where the inference that Leverhulme left it there in 1923 came from.

Osmund's demonstration that Brahan Castle (where we now know it hung) belonged to the sitter's brother James Stewart-Mackenzie (later Baron Seaforth) from 1881 and the descent was broadly in that family and trustees representing their interest looks a more likely provenance. Given that the trustees distributed pictures locally at Brahan's demolition in 1952 then the question is simply how the 'college' at Lews had use -but presumably not saleable ownership - of this one, whether through the agency of Lady Midleton (d. 1966) or not. If, on its closure, its property was sold then presumably any pictures it owned would have been but this one wasn't as far as we have been told which suggests it was just left in limbo. We know Lady Midleton was niece and executor of the sitter but not yet if she was one of the Brahan trustees: in 1952 or up to 1966 she may have had some influence in its disposition, but by 1989 she was long dead and if the local council stepped in it looks like 'last resort' on a loose end.

Jacinto Regalado,

As I understand it, Lews Castle was used to house students during the 1950s, but I do not know exactly when that started (though it was after the war) or how long it lasted.

On the basis of the preceding posts and subject to the input of the collection and my fellow group leaders, I recommend that we now close this discussion, "Who is this sitter and how did it come to Lewis?", on the basis that we have identified the sitter as Julia, Marchioness of Tweeddale (1846-1937. The portrtait was exhibited in 1888. The collection (21 September) is happy with our progress.

Osmund’s post (25 October) shows our portrait hanging at Brahan Castle. The subsequent provenance is not completely clear. How the portrait came to Lewis has been explored by Osmund and Pieter but without a clearcut answer.

Not my call but I agree: lucky Lewis. For such a good painter, and one with other serious interests including active theatre and early film production, and as a teacher and writer - Herkomer is rather a forgotten figure. A comment in his Wiki entry probably has some truth in suggesting that, as German-born:

'.... he was ultimately a victim of the deteriorating relationship between Great Britain and Germany, which he shuttled between, spending most of his summers in Bavaria.'

Perhaps, like 'dear Albert' (as Q. Victoria called him) both too German and too earnest for the English social establishment to warm to. (I think it was Macaulay who said something about 'serous conversation being regarded as bad form among the British upper classes' : discuss - but not here please....)