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A fine seventeenth-century child portrait acquired for the Scottish National Portrait Gallery
Robert, Lord Bruce, later 2nd Earl of Elgin and 1st Earl of Ailesbury (1626 - 1685), Cornelius Johnson, 1633. Oil on canvas. Scottish National Portrait Gallery.
EDINBURGH.- The Scottish National Portrait Gallery has acquired an extremely distinguished and sensitive seventeenth-century portrait of Robert, Lord Bruce (1626-1685), as a child. It is one of very few child portraits of this early period in the collection. The painting has been acquired for £35,000 from the Weiss Gallery in London.

He is depicted in the height of contemporary fashion, wearing a delicate pink satin doublet, trimmed with buttons and braiding, all created from precious silver thread.

Robert, Lord Bruce was from a noble Scottish family: he was born in 1626, the only child and heir of Thomas Bruce, 1st Earl of Elgin. As an adult he travelled across Europe, undertaking a Grand Tour many years before such educational journeys were commonplace. On his return to Britain in 1646 he married Lady Diana Grey: they had seventeen children, nine of whom survived to adulthood. In the 1650s, during the Civil War, he was campaigning and raising money for the royalist cause. In 1660 he was one of the Commissioners who travelled to The Hague to invite the exiled King Charles II to return to Britain to reclaim the throne.

This is the first portrait by the artist Cornelius Johnson (1593-1661) to enter the Gallery’s collection. Johnson was born in London and may have trained in the Netherlands. He painted portraits of the gentry, merchants and courtiers and became renowned for his sensitive depictions of his sitters and their clothes. The lack of a work by this most prolific and successful 17th-century portraitist was a significant gap in the collections.

The artist was appointed ‘his Majesty’s … Picture drawer’ to Charles I in 1632. He fell from favour however the same year, following the arrival of the outstanding painter Anthony van Dyck at court. The portrait of Lord Bruce has been displayed beside Van Dyck’s portrait of the Stuart princesses in Gallery 1 at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.

Christopher Baker, Director of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery commented: “This is a very welcome addition to the Gallery’s seventeenth-century collections; a work of considerable refinement,it provides a fascinating insight into 17th-century fashion and the careers of both a significant sitter and artist.”

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