Completed Maritime Subjects, Portraits: British 19th C, Scotland: Artists and Subjects 10 Who painted this portrait of James Clapperton?

James Clapperton (1836–1856)
Topic: Artist

This painting is one of an interesting series of recently acquired portraits in the McLean's collection featuring members of the Clapperton family. This family had maritime and sugar trade connections.

The artist of this work is unknown - does anyone have any idea of who might have painted it?

McLean Museum and Art Gallery – Inverclyde Council, Entry reviewed by Art UK

Completed, Outcome

This discussion is now closed. We have not been able to identify who painted this portrait, but we have corrected the record for the life dates of Elizabeth McAra of Cartsdyke (1803–1895), James Clapperton’s mother, whose portrait is in the same collection.

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.


Barbara Bryant,

It would be useful to have some information about the back of the painting, ideally an image of it so we can see if there are any labels, marks of any kind, etc.

Simon Gillespie,

It would also be great to be able to enlarge the image. Note that there is an earlier portrait , only upside down . See the same shoulders and curve of the back of the head. This has become visible with the top paint becoming transparent with age.
Accomplished piece of portraiture.

Osmund Bullock,

Simon, the poor focus suggests to me that the painting may have been behind glass when the photo was taken - so it's possible the inverted 'ghost' image is just a reflection of another portrait sitting on the floor opposite. Note the oblique line across his chest, which looks like it could be the top edge of the other one.

I can't see any other obviously Clapperton family portraits in the venue's collection - is this the first one of the series to be listed on Art UK?

Martin Hopkinson,

Information on the history of the Clapperton family in the 19th and early 20th century might help

The painting is one of a group of portraits which have just arrived at the McLean so we still have to conduct some research to clarify some of the details of the family supplied with the works. The others on Art UK are the images of Elizabeth McAra (mother of James Clapperton, the sitter in question), George Allan of Rosehill, Captain John Elder, and Ann (Elder) Allan (daughter of John Elder). The portrait of Captain Hugh Clapperton on Art UK in the collection of the National Galleries of Scotland is a also a member of this family.

I have checked the painting, which has been re-framed in a modern frame so that no details show on the back. The 'ghost' image is indeed part of the work though the photograph of it does have contain some reflections as the painting is glazed. A higher resolution image is attached.

1 attachment
Barbara Bryant,

Thanks to the McLean Museum and Gallery for providing this further information. One might further ask if any of the paintings that came with the group have any markings, labels, etc. on them. Either way, it looks like the family history angle may be the best to try, as Martin suggests.

Osmund Bullock,

Yes, thank you McLean. Presumably the name given for the sitter ('John [sic] Clapperton') in the 'description' section for the portrait on your own website ( ) is a typo, and this is definitely James, not his elder brother John? And when you say there are no details on the back, you mean there is not even a modern inscription/label - the identification just came with the paperwork accompanying Miss Greig's bequest?

This discussion has attracted seven comments, all dating from June 2017. Unless further evidence is forthcoming, it is clear that the discussion has not been able to identify the artist of this portrait. It is proposed to recommend to the collection that there is not sufficient evidence to identify the artist.

Art UK headlines the portrait as depicting James Clapperton but in the description below calls him John Clapperton. The collection website identifies the sitter as James Clapperton. It is proposed to recommend that Art UK amends their description from John to James Clapperton.

Andrew Shore,

If this is the portrait of James Clapperton's mother, Elizabeth (nee MacAra/McAra):

...then possibly the dates are wrong on that record. This is a photo of her grave monument (with various other family members) and their dates. Hers is given as 1803–1895:

Also, (the donor) Ann Keiller Grieg's father was John Keiller Greig (an Olympic ice skater, I think!) and he married Grace Margaret Turnbull Clapperton on 6 October 1915 in Greenock West. Grace and John are listed on the gravestone too. So that's presumably the straightforward connection. Perhaps there's more to unpick in their family history records?