Wednesday, 25 December 2013

My Henry Macbeth Raeburn Lady has a name ...

Ever since I bought my Henry Macbeth Raeburn mezzotint Lady several years ago on a whim because I really loved it, I have wondered who the beautiful lady is.

I recently had her framed  & love looking at her everyday - a beautiful, serene image.

I have done much research to try to give her a name but from research, I know that Sir Henry Raeburn was a prolific portrait painter & his stunning works hang in several National Galleries & collections.

I was first attracted to my Lady because of the exquisite colouring & beautifully refined details & so had hoped to find her easily on the internet but her name has eluded me for a long time.

I even bought a vintage Henry Raeburn book with a catalogue of his paintings & have been scouring the vague descriptions in the hope of finding one which matched, but the catalogue of work only gives vague descriptions of the paintings that is of no help at all ...

I even added images to my blog  & on my flickr photostream in the hope that a name would emerge ....

Today I noticed several 'hits' on her image & they led amongst others to this flickr photo of the dining room at Polesdan Lacey House 

A breakthrough at last!

The painting is linked to Polesden Lacey in Surrey:

Polesden Lacey, originally a Regency house, was extensively remodelled in 1906-09 by the Hon Mrs Ronald Greville, a well-known Edwardian hostess. Her collection of fine British portraits by Lawrence, Reynolds and Raeburn is in the dining room. The other collections of paintings, furniture, porcelain and silver are displayed in the reception rooms and galleries, as they were at the time of her celebrated house parties. There are extensive grounds, a walled rose garden, lawns and walks. The future King George V1 and Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother spent part of their honeymoon here in 1923.

polesden-lacey dining room

A breakthrough at last as Polesden contains this better known Raeburn painting

My heart sang when I saw this painting - the painting which my mezzotint is of:

Isabella Simpson, Mrs William Simpson

Sir Henry Raeburn, RA (Stockbridge 1756 – Edinburgh 1823)
National Trust Inventory Number 1246447

Isabella, Mrs William Simpson, later Mrs Burroughs, painted between 1803-5

The painting was in the collection of Mrs Grenville & the eclectic items are still held at Polesden where it is on display in the diningroom dining-room Raeburn's. It is very exciting to see the original in a bold gold frame & in situ ....

These Henry Raeburns are in the same collection

Self Portrait

Isabella Simpson, Mrs William Simpson

Sir William Macleod Bernadine

George and his Sister Maria Stewart as Children

The Paterson Children

The description of original painting is:

Oil painting on canvas, Isabella Simpson, Mrs William Simpson by Sir Henry Raeburn, RA (Stockbridge 1756 – Edinburgh 1823), circa 1803/05. A nearly full-length portrait, seated beneath a tree, turned to the right, gazing at the spectator, her hands clasped on her lap. She has light brown hair and wears a white high-waisted dress with short sleeves, her red cloak hung on the tree behind her. A cloudy sky and distant horizon on the right.
According to Sir William Armstrong, this painting belonged to the Mitchell-Innes family; it was with Dowell's, Edinburgh, in 1896; with Lesser, from whom William McEwan bought it for £2,500 in 1896; by descent to his daughter, Margaret McEwan, The Hon. Mrs Ronald Greville (1863-1942), by whom bequeathed with Polesden Lacey to the National Trust, in memory of her father, William McEwan (1827-1913).
In the Henry Raeburn book, my lady is described in the book only as

Simpson, Mrs. Three-quarter length; seated in a landscape; 481/2 x 381/2. William McEwan Esq

That description is of no help at all so I am so pleased to have solved the riddle & not had to rely on vague descriptions ... however, I have more questions I would like answers to. 

I am wondering what connection the mezzotintist Henry Macbeth Raeburn had to the artist Henry Raeburn - a son, a grandson, a nephew? 

I am also wondering who Isabella was & why she was immortalised in the painting with its beautiful gilt frame ... perhaps that is the next thing I will find out!  I am just so pleased to have a name & some information on Isabella & I keep looking at her, willing her to give up something of her life; in time, perhaps she will...

Thank you for reading this journey of mine to name my Lady - would you have wanted to know more about a picture you loved?

Till next time, thanks for stopping by
Dee ~♥~


  1. How wonderful for you to have found out so much about your lovely Lady. It is a wonderful painting and is just the type of painting I would have liked in our old house. You must have had enormous fun tracing her. She is beautiful. Love to read about your projects. Love you. xxx

    1. Thank you Monica, it is just such a lovely image which is calm & beautiful & which I look at everyday as I get ready. Art is so personal that I believe you must live with things that you really love - life is too short for anything else! xx


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