Lowell Libson & Jonny Yarker Ltd

  • Oil on canvas
  • 35 × 26 ¾ inches · 889 × 679 mm
  • Painted in 1794


  • Commissioned by David Hunter of Burnside (1765-1846);
  • David Hunter (1821-1846), grandson of the above;
  • Captain William Hunter (1847-1936), son of the above;
  • Galerie Sedelmeyer, Paris, acquired from the above in 1905;
  • Wallis & Son, London, by 1910; 
  • Private collection, USA;
  • Christie's, New York, January 11, 1991, Lot. 35;
  • Private collection, USA to 2024


  • Illustrated Catalogue of the Ninth Series of 100 Paintings by Old Masters of the Dutch, Flemish, Italian, French and English Schools being a portion of the Sedelmeyer Gallery, Paris, 1905, cat. no. 84, p.106, reproduced;
  • James Greig, Sir Henry Raeburn, RA, his life and works, London, 1911, p.43

This characteristically fluid work was completed by Raeburn in 1794 almost certainly to commemorate the marriage of Margaret Douglas to David Hunter of Burnside. Composed as an elegant essay in white, Margaret Hunter is shown with fashionably powdered hair and a blue sash at her waist, seated in a landscape. In composition, palette and handling, this portrait epitomises Raeburn’s appeal. The portrait is housed in a spectacular carved and gilt frame of French eighteenth-century design, almost certainly added by the Parisian dealer Charles Sedelmeyer in 1905 for the burgeoning Trans-Atlantic market in elite British portraiture.

Raeburn was born at Stockbridge, near Edinburgh, the younger son of a prosperous mill owner. He was educated at George Heriot’s Hospital, Edinburgh and at the age of sixteen was apprenticed to the goldsmith James Gilliband. He never entered an established painters studio or attended an academy, and he was largely self-taught, a circumstance that accounts for his highly personal technique. Raeburn spent two years in Rome, although little has survived of his time in Italy. In 1787 he settled in Edinburgh’s New Town and began to cultivate a successful portrait practice. He worked first in George Street, then, after 1798, in a new studio with a single north light that he had built for himself on York Place. Whilst no sitters book survives, it is known that by 1798 he was charging 18 guineas for a head and shoulders and 75 guineas for a full length. It was during the 1790s that he developed his bold, direct style of portraiture, which was well suited to the independent, innovative society he painted. Requiring four or five sittings for a head, Raeburn worked straightway with the brush without preliminary drawings, often using square, flat touches, where were his particular personal characteristic.

The present painting exemplifies Raeburn’s innovative technique. Margaret Hunter is shown seated in a landscape, only loosely suggested with slabby brushstrokes. She is shown almost in profile, her face brightly lit and high colouring of her face contrasting with her powdered hair and simply, white costume. Raeburn’s lack of formal training is perhaps in evidence in the somewhat awkward position of the sitter’s knee. Born at Dudhope Castle in Dundee, the daughter of William Douglas of Brigton, Maragret Douglas married David Hunter laird of Burnside and Dod in 1794. David Hunter was a member of the Angusshire Regiment of Fencibles rising to the rank of Lieutenant General, a considerable landowner in Angus, he was responsible for developing Broughty Ferry, a suburb of Dundee.