Chantry Fine Art Collection
Subject: Portrait of William Adam QC
Artist: Sir Henry Raeburn RA F.R.S.A. (1756-
Provenance: The Elphinstone Family Trust
Date: c1810 Size: 17”x 14” Condition: Excellent
Frame: of the period, possibly the original, and is in excellent condition.
Details: Henry Raeburn was one of the most prominent of the Scottish portraitists, coming into his own in the 1790s when his style was much appreciated by the Scottish intellectuals. His treatment of male sitters was enhanced by the use of strong shadows and dark backgrounds.
He favoured expressions of noble thoughtfulness or intensity of purpose, as in this portrait, which also displays the directness that has been called “the portraiture of common sense”.
However, although the work, dating from circa 1810, is close to Raeburn’s style and standard, it does not have a direct link to the artist, and thus is only attributed to his circle.
Neverthless, the provenance is well documented; it originates in the Elphinstone Family Trust, which disposed of some 50 family portraits at Sotheby’s in 2006. The sitter is William Adam QC (1751-
The son of John Adam, an architect, of Maryburgh, Kinross, he was also the nephew of the very famous architect, Robert Adam (1728-
He subsequently became a firm supporter of the Tory Lord North, and early on clashed violently and literally with Charles James Fox, the Whig Leader. They fought a famous pistol duel in Hyde Park on November 29th 1779, and Fox was slightly wounded.
However, in later life they became great friends as testified by Earl Russell in his “Life and Times of C.J.Fox” when he says “Mr Adam has that openness of temper and cordiality of disposition which particularly suited Mr Fox”
When the events surrounding the French Revolution isolated Fox in parliament, Adam became one of his most fervent supporters.
During his parliamentary career Adam held various posts. He was Treasurer of the Ordnance 1780-
In 1776 he married Eleanora, daughter of the tenth Lord Elphinstone, hence the portrait’s link to the Elphinstone Trust.
They had four sons, all of whom had very successful careers. The eldest, John, became acting Governor-
The fourth, General Sir Frederick Adam K.C.M.G. G.C.B (1781-
The portrait is within a frame of the period, possibly the original, and is in excellent condition.
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