About this artwork

This magnificent portrait was commissioned by James, 6th Duke of Hamilton, to celebrate his marriage to Elizabeth Gunning. Born in Ireland, Elizabeth was a celebrity beauty who caused a sensation when she and her equally attractive sister were introduced into high society. Though the sisters had neither dowries nor rank, their physical attractiveness secured them excellent marriages. Elizabeth married the Duke of Hamilton on St Valentine's Day, 1752, only weeks after meeting him at a masquerade. The artist Gavin Hamilton, a distant relative of the Duke, produced an extremely sophisticated image that was unlike the more informal portraits of the time. The elegantly-draped figure, as poised and calm as a classical statue, is already suggestive of Hamilton’s later fascination with the Antique.

Gavin Hamilton

Gavin Hamilton