|The sitter was the daughter of John, 8th Lord Elphinstone (1649-1718) and Isabel Maitland, daughter of Charles 3rd Earl of Lauderdale. Her father fought at Bothwell Bridge in 1679 against the Covenanters and was a staunch supporter in the succession of the Protestant William of Orange. Elizabeth married in 1692 the Hon. John Campbell (1655-1729) M.P. for Dumbarton and son of Archibald, 9th Earl of Argyll. She, in turn, was the mother of General Sir John Campbell, 4th Duke of Argyll who was famously painted by Thomas Gainsborough.
William Aikman was the son of an Angus laird, and although he initially planned for a career in business, studying civil law at Edinburgh University, the deaths of his elder brother and father meant that he inherited his family estate at Cairnie, Arbroath, as a young man. He was then at liberty to pursue art as his vocation, and emerged as the leading Scottish painter of his generation. Aikman’s early portraits show the influence of Sir John Baptist de Medina (1659-1710), and he had some initial success in London before travelling to Italy in 1707 to study the old masters. He returned to Edinburgh in 1711, and after the death of Medina established himself as the foremost painter of Scotland’s elite.
The present portrait is typical of Aikmans work. His manner and approach to many of his female sitters was almost identical, suggesting a certain formulaic treatment, but always emphasising some individuality, usually in the facial expression and unusually, for the period, in a smirking or smiling mouth formed often of sensuous lips.