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James Stuart of Dunearn (1775–1849)

James Stuart of Dunearn started collecting again on his return from America. He died in 1849 and the next year a sale of his collection of 155 paintings, mostly Dutch and English, and drawings, was held at Christie’s in London.25 In his obituary, published in 1849, the author writes: ‘He was distinguished by his taste for, and knowledge of, the fine arts; and his many excellent qualities made him highly esteemed and beloved by a wide circle of attached and intelligent friends.’26

Very few details can be found about Stuart’s second collection of paintings in his London house. He might have bought paintings, possibly in France, between spring 1831 and 1832, just before his return to London from Jersey, where he was waiting to have his bankruptcy discharged. Beyond having solved his financial situation with the British Government, he might have spent part of his anticipated inheritance in starting to rebuild his collection. Earnings from his two employments, as a factory inspector and as chairman of the United Kingdom Insurance Company (or North British Assurance Company, as it was called by the Gentleman’s Magazine),27 presumably helped.

Stuart possibly found the time to collect again in the years between 1836 and his death. In 1840–1 William John Wood, who had served briefly as factory superintendent in Scotland from November 1836 to January 1837, and John Beal, Stuart’s factory superintendent for East Scotland, combined to denounce him for failing in his role of supervisor to the royal commission for the employment of children in factories.28 Beal, in particular, accused Stuart of running his district from the London office at the Courier, as well as spending part of his time in France on private business.29 This information reinforces the possibility that his ‘private business in France’ could have involved the purchase of works of art, in particular his French paintings, among them six paintings by Greuze, and Chardin’s The Young Schoolmistress (NG 4077), which was called in the 1850 sale catalogue A girl teaching a child and then sold for £10.30

The provenance, direct or indirect, of some of Stuart’s paintings was noted in the sale catalogue: some from Viscount Hartcourt [sic], others from Mr Gilmore’s collection, the Montcalm Gallery (Greuze, lot 117b), the King of Bavaria (Wouwermans [sic], lot 182), Lady Stuart’s collection (Jan Both, lot 183), Marshal Maison’s collection (Canaletto, lot 196) and from Edward Gray’s collection, Harringay (van der Neer, lot 208). John Smith’s collection was often cited in the provenance details.31

James Stuart of Dunearn’s second collection was quite like his first. Many of the works were by artists he or his family members had collected before. Dutch and Flemish paintings formed the greater part of the collection, but a small number of French and Italian paintings could also be found. He continued to be interested in paintings by contemporary Scottish artists, in particular those depicting landscapes of Scotland and Aberdour. 

25 Dutch and English Pictures and Drawings selected with the great taste by that well-known collector James Stuart, Esq., deceased, late of Boyne Terrace, Notting Hill, Christie & Manson, London, 18–19 April 1850.

26 ‘Sylvanus Urban, Gent.’ (the pseudonym of the editor of the Gentleman’s Magazine), Gentleman’s Magazine, 32, July–December 1849, p. 659.

27 Ibid., p. 660.

28 S.C. on Mills and Factories, Fourth Report, pp. 80–1, in IUP PP, Industrial Revolution, Factories, i, 1840–1.

29 Henriques 1971, p. 35.

30 The author of the catalogue wrote the words ‘very elegant’ next to this lot.

31 For provenance references the author of the sale catalogue also quotes the London dealer John Smith’s book, A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch, Flemish and French Painters, London 1829–42.