A Highland Chieftain: Portrait of Lord Mungo Murray
- Art Funded
- The Allan and Carol Murray Collection
This important Scottish portrait by John MichaelWright is thought to be the earliest major painting to depict a sitter full-length in Highland dress.
The subject is Lord Mungo Murray (1668-1700), fifth son of John Murray, 2nd Earl of Atholl, and Lady Amelia Sophia Stanley, daughter of the 7th Earl of Derby. Mungo Murray was involved in military expeditions in the north of Scotland in the 1680s and 1690s. Spurned in love, he set sail in 1699 for New Caledonia (in present-day Panama) as part of the ill-fated Darien scheme by the Company of Scotland Trading to Africa and the Indies. Shortly after his arrival in early 1700, Murray, aged just 32, was killed by Spanish forces who had laid claim to the territory.
Michael Wright was born in London, but from 1636 spent five formative years in Scotland apprenticed to the eminent portraitist George Jamesone. In the 1640s he travelled to Rome, where he established himself as a painter, antiquarian, collector and dealer. In 1656 he returned to England, where he received several royal commissions from both Charles II and James II.
Wright’s portrait of Murray was painted in Ireland, where, as a Roman Catholic, the artist had travelled to escape persecution in London. It is thought to have been a companion picture to Wright’s painting Sir Neil O’Neill as an Irish Chieftain, now in the Tate collection, London.
Wright shows Murray, aged about 15, dressed for hunting in a féileadh-mór (a precursor to the kilt), woven with a subtle red, yellow and green sett. On his upper body he is clothed in a wool doublet embroidered with silver and silver-gilt threads, demonstrating his wealth, status and nationality as an aristocratic Highland Scot. In his right hand he holds a Scottish long gun made for hunting, while a sword and dagger hang below his waist.
Glasgow Museums holds an internationally significant collection of 17th-century European paintings, and this magnificent portrait is a major addition to its holdings of 17th-century Scottish subjects.
Probably commissioned by 2nd Duke of Ormonde; Henry, 7th Duke of Newcastle, and by inheritance to Earl of Lincoln, removed from Clumber, Worksop, Nottinghamshire; Christie’s, London, 4 June 1937, lot 9 (125 guineas to Leggatt); either bought by Legg