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James Stuart of Dunearn (1775–1849)


Following Stuart’s bankruptcy his sequestrated estate was auctioned at his family house, 20 Moray Place, Edinburgh, on 9–11 February 1829.13 The names of the artists whose works were in the sale were taken from a list that Stuart himself had made. There were several paintings described as by masters of different schools, including Correggio, Guido Reni, Murillo, Van Dyck, Rembrandt, Cuyp, Jan Both, Hobbema, Ruisdael, Berchem, Wouwermans [sic], Swanevelt, Willem van de Velde, de Hooch and Watteau. The modern pictures, with the exception of a few by Sir Joshua Reynolds and others of the English School, were principally by eminent Scottish artists. According to the catalogue the paintings were all ‘in fine condition, and elegantly framed’.14

The works were sold room by room, giving us an idea of Stuart’s house in Edinburgh, and in particular of the rooms where the paintings used to hang: two of his few French paintings –namely, Pair of views of Ludlow and Powys Castle curiously attributed to Watteau and the sketch of a Woman peeling Onions by Chardin15 – were displayed in the principal bedroom, together with a painting by Salvator Rosa, a group of Dutch paintings, and some miniatures. The most valuable paintings were in the dining room. These were said to be by Guido Reni, Correggio, Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Murillo and Sir Joshua Reynolds. Some of the Scottish works and some drawings were hung in the anteroom, and the large drawing room was dedicated to paintings by Watteau, Giovanni Bellini, Andrea Soldi, Netscher, Berchem, Wouwerman, Willem van de Velde, Jan Both and Sir Joshua Reynolds. Finally, the small drawing room was dedicated to Dutch paintings by Hobbema, Cuyp, Berchem, van Goyen and others. Other paintings, such as Watteau’s Fête champêtre (which at 100 guineas made one of the highest prices in the sale) and a copy after Poussin, the so-called Tomb of Germanicus,16 were sold on the third day of the sale and were not located in any of the rooms mentioned above. According to the author of the auction catalogue, Stuart’s collection was: ‘One of the most select private collections of Old Pictures ever brought to sale in Scotland, many of which have been long in the possession of Stuart’s Family, besides purchases made by himself with great taste and judgement’.

Among the noblemen interested in the sale was Walter Scott’s friend, the young 5th Duke of Buccleuch. On 2 February 1829 Scott wrote in his diary that he looked at the pictures to find something for the duke: he saw Hobbema’s The Avenue at Middelharnis (lot 120), now in the National Gallery (NG 830), but did not find it appealing. The next day he wrote to the duke reporting that it was ‘fitter for an artist’s studio than for a nobleman’s collection’.17

13 Catalogue of Pictures, Prints and Drawings, belonging to the sequestrated estate of James Stuart of Dunearn. Mansfield and Davidson, Monday, 9–11 February 1829. Stuart’s collection of books had been sold separately, at D. Speare, Edinburgh, 26 January 1829; a copy of the catalogue is in the library of Harvard University (Hollis no. 007126723). For a complete overview of the sale see the Sale Catalogs Files of the Getty Provenance Index, BR 3226.

14 See the introduction in James Stuart’s sale catalogue, 9–11 February 1829, cited in previous note.

15 Possibly a sketch for Chardin’s The Kitchen Maid, 1738, Washington, National Gallery of Art, inv. 1952.5.38. A replica, the so-called Woman Peeling Turnips, is in the Alte Pinakothek, Munich, inv. 1090.

16 The original of Poussin’s painting is The Death of Germanicus in the Minneapolis Institute of Art, inv. 58.28.

17 Pope-Hennessy 1939, p. 67.