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Zoomable Image of Portrait miniature of a Mid-Shipman

Portrait miniature of a Mid-Shipman

Attributed to Kenneth Macleay R.S.A. (1802-78)

Portrait miniature of a Mid-Shipman

Attributed to Kenneth Macleay R.S.A. (1802-78)

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Price:

£2,250

Materials:

Watercolour on ivory

Dimensions:

Rectangular, 3 5/8 x 2 7/8 in (92 x 73 mm)

Kenneth Macleay was one of the greatest native Scottish portrait miniature painters of the nineteenth century and played an integral role in the development of the arts Scotland.

Kenneth Macleay was one of the greatest native Scottish miniature painters of the nineteenth century and played an integral role in the development of the arts in Scotland.

Born in Oban and the son of a doctor, Macleay decided to pursue a career in the arts, moving to Edinburgh in 1820 and entering the Trustees Drawing Academy in 1822 where he soon established himself as a capable portrait miniature painter. Macleay was one of the founding members of the Royal Scottish Academy in 1826, where he exhibited until his death in 1878.

The nineteenth century was one of the most challenging periods for the portrait miniature painter, due largely to increasing use of photography to capture likenesses, and by 1859 Macleay had gone bankrupt. In an attempt to diversify Macleay acquired a photography studio in Edinburgh and exhibited with the Photographic Society of Scotland, although this career was short lived and by 1863 Macleay was attempting, with some degree of success, to rebuild his career as a miniature painter.

Despite this era of uncertainty the importance of Macleay within the sphere of Scottish art can best be judged through a series of commissions from Queen Victoria, who requested he paint in watercolour a number of her servants at Balmoral, as well as a series of Clan chiefs from the surrounding areas wearing their distinctive tartans for a forthcoming publication. Although later turning to landscape painting in oils and watercolour, Macleay’s career as a portrait miniature painter was sadly over, and following his death in 1878, his daughter received a civil-list pension for her father’s contribution to Scottish Art.

Although at present unknown, the sitter is undoubtedly a young midshipman and not, sadly, Lord Nelson as a contemporary label on the reverse suggests.

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