Cambridge – Fitzwilliam Museum (William Glendonwyn by Sir Henry Raeburn)

The reason I pondered this painting is that I’m not sure that by today’s standards that Sir Henry Raeburn (1756-1823) has portrayed Glendonwyn well. There’s not much to be readily found out about Raeburn’s subject, other than Glendonwyn was a wealthy Scot and his surname is linked to the Glendinning family.

The notes by the painting mention that the light falling on his forehead is deliberate, it’s meant to show that the subject has intelligence. I’m not sure that this effect still holds, although this was painted in the 1790s and things were just a little different then and now he looks more aloof. Raeburn, who became the official portrait painter in Scotland to King George IV, painted over 1,000 artworks during his career and he rarely used preliminary sketches.

The painting came up for sale at Christie’s on 22 February 1890 and was then in turn acquired privately by the Fitzwilliam Museum in 1892. At the same auction in 1890 the accompanying portrait to this, that of Glendonwyn’s wife, was sold, but the whereabouts of that are unknown.