Allan Ramsay

Alexander Boswell, Lord Auchinleck


Not on display

Allan Ramsay 1713–1784
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 762 × 635 mm
frame: 876 × 750 × 60 mm
Presented by the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1968

Display caption

Alexander Boswell (1706–82) succeeded as 8th Laird of Auchinleck, Ayrshire, Scotland, in 1749. Like his father, Boswell studied law in the Dutch city of Leiden. In 1754 he was made a Lord of Session as Lord Auchinleck, becoming a judge in the highest court in Scotland. This portrait was commissioned to mark that event and shows him wearing the traditional red judge’s robes. It was painted in Edinburgh by Allan Ramsay, the leading portrait painter in Scotland at that time. Lord Auchinleck’s eldest son was James Boswell, the companion and biographer of Dr Johnson.

Gallery label, February 2016

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Catalogue entry

Allan Ramsay 1713–1784


Inscribed ‘A. Ramsay-1754’ c.r.
Canvas, 30×25 (76×63·5), on stretcher 30 1/8×25 1/4 (76·5×64).
Presented by the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1968.
Coll: by descent to Sir Arthur Boswell Eliott of Stobs, Bt., sold Sotheby's 3 April 1968 (113, repr.) bt. Leggatt Bros. for the Friends of the Tate Gallery.
Exh: Mr Boswell, Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh, and National Portrait Gallery, London, August–November 1967 (2, repr.).

Painted in Edinburgh, where Ramsay spent the early months of 1754 before going on his second visit to Italy, where he stayed until 1757. Alexander Boswell (1706–1782) was a Scottish judge and eighth Laird of Auchinleck. In 1754 he was appointed as one of the ‘Lords’ (judges) of the Court of Session, and in 1755 to the Court of Justiciary, the supreme criminal court for Scotland. T01049 shows him wearing the robes of a Lord of Session, whereas a three-quarter length replica sold at Sotheby's on 7 July 1965 (lot 123, repr.; bt. Colnaghi; 49 1/2×39 1/2 in.) shows him in those of the Court of Justiciary. Ramsay was a personal friend of his son James Boswell, of Dr Johnson fame.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery: Acquisitions 1968-9, London 1969

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