Lord & Lady Ross c.1705
Plumbago on vellum; held in oval turned wood frames, entire 4 ¼ by 3 ¼ in; 11 x 9.5 cm
Provenance: Family descent; Christie’s, 22nd March, 1977, lot 30; Private Collection, England
Literature: Daphne Foskett, ‘Miniatures Dictionary & Guide’, ACC, 1987, illustrated p198
The pair of portraits presented here by the Scottish artist David Paton depicts William, twelfth Lord Ross (c.1656–1738), and his third wife Ann Hay in about 1705. Lord Ross’s parents were also depicted by Paton, as was his wife’s notable grandfather John Maitland, 1st Duke of Lauderdale, and no doubt because of this the same artist was favoured with further family patronage.
William, twelfth Lord Ross of Halkhead, or Hawkhead, was the eldest son of George Ross, eleventh Lord Ross (d. 1682), and his first wife, Lady Grizel Cochrane (d. 1665), only daughter of William Cochrane, first earl of Dundonald (d. 1685). He succeeded his father in 1682, and entered zealously into the Revolution of 1688. He was a privy councilor to King William and afterwards to Queen Anne, and in 1704 was lord-high-commissioner to the Church of Scotland. He was also one of the lords of the treasury, and a commissioner for the Union, of which treaty he was a staunch promoter. At the general election in 1715 he was chosen one of the sixteen Scots representative peers, and the same year was appointed lord-lieutenant of Renfrewshire.
In February 1679 he married Agnes (d. 1692), daughter and heir of Sir John Wilkie of Fouldean; they had five children—George, John, Euphame, Mary, and Grizel. Following her death he married second c.1693, Margaret, widow successively of Major Dunch and of Sir Thomas Sulyarde (d. 1692), and daughter of Philip Wharton, fourth Baron Wharton (1613–1696). Margaret died childless, and Ross then married successively Lady Anne Hay, eldest daughter of John Hay, second marquess of Tweeddale (1645–1713), with whom he had a daughter, Anne; and later in June 1731 Henrietta, daughter of Sir Francis Scott of Thirlestane. Ross died at Edinburgh on 15 March 1738, aged about eighty-two. He was succeeded as thirteenth Lord Ross by his son George (1681–1754).
Paton was a fine portrait draughtsman and copyist who specialized in making small monochrome drawings, both portraits and copies of old masters, in plumbago as well as in pen and Indian ink on vellum. His earliest known work dates from 1667. Significant to these portraits of Ross and his wife is the fact that Paton’s most important patron was Elizabeth Murray (1626–1698), Countess of Dysart, who later married her second husband John Maitland, 1st Duke of Lauderdale (1616–1682) in 1672. Of him Paton drew a small rectangular portrait, signed and dated 1669 (Ham House), and during the 1670s and early 1680s accompanied the Hon. William Tollemache (1662–1694), the duchess of Lauderdale’s youngest son, on a grand tour around Italy, visiting the court of Cosimo (III) de’ Medici, grand duke of Tuscany, in Florence. The Lauderdales’ main residence, Ham House, was Lady Lauderdale’s own property, which they enlarged and extended, creating the famous Green Closet on the first floor for the display of miniatures and cabinet paintings where a number of Paton’s portraits where intended and, indeed, can still be seen.
After returning from the continent, Paton seems to have worked mainly in Edinburgh, executing small portrait drawings of the Scots nobility. Characterful and well drawn these intense studies found great favour with his aristocratic clientele; kinship was important and family connections amongst the nobility very close, so patronage by one family inevitably led quickly to that by another. It is recorded that in his later years he moved from Edinburgh to London, but as with his early life exact details are unclear and nothing is known beyond 1709, when we must assume he died. Considering his artistic status the art historian Stephen Lloyd observes “Paton’s œuvre is generally of a very high quality and may be compared favourably with English masters working in the same medium during the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, such as William Faithorne, David Loggan, Robert White, John Faber, George White, and Thomas Forster”.