About this artwork

This striking work is one of several head-and-shoulder portraits Skirving made during the time he lived in Rome from 1786 to 1793, following a lack of success in Edinburgh. The composition and pose of the work is a close match to a miniature created around the same time. During his stay in Italy, Skirving initially produced copies of old master paintings as well as portrait miniatures but realised that there was a potential market for him in producing pastel portraits. Skirving’s fastidious and painstaking attention to detail resulted in meticulous and highly finished works in pastel, but the time he took on each artwork limited his output. A fellow Scot, Sir William Forbes observed this fact, writing that:

“...he takes so much time and bestows so much labour finishing his pieces that he can never do much, indeed can scarcely live by his art.”

Archibald Skirving

Archibald Skirving