About this artwork

William Forbes was the eldest son of Sir William Forbes of Pitsligo, a prominent Scottish banker and patron of the arts. Sir William commissioned this painting around the time that Raeburn was experiencing financial problems, having been declared bankrupt in 1808. It would have been important for Raeburn to retain such a notable patron. This highly skilled and ambitious portrait shows Raeburn at the height of his artistic powers. William is shown aged around seven years old, playfully teasing his Bernese Mountain dog with a bite of food. As the elder son, William would have been due to inherit his father’s estate and title, but he unfortunately died in Malta in 1826. The title passed to his younger brother John, who features in another portrait by Raeburn in the National Galleries of Scotland.

Updated before 2020

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  • artist:
  • title:
    William Stuart Forbes, elder son of Sir William Forbes of Pitsligo, 1802 - 1826
  • date created:
    About 1809 - 1813
  • materials:
    Oil on canvas
  • measurements:
    135.26 x 109.86 cm (base size); 170.50 x 145.20 cm (framed size)
  • object type:
  • credit line:
    Accepted in lieu of Inheritance Tax by HM Government from the Forbes of Pitsligo Collection, and allocated to the National Galleries of Scotland, 2018
  • accession number:
    NG 2882
  • gallery:
  • subject:
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Sir Henry Raeburn

Sir Henry Raeburn

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