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  1. #1
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    Two portraits by William Mosman

    We know that 18th century artists often painted sitters' facial details onto a pre-painted background. Richard Waitt, he of the Grant portraits, was known for pre-painting much of the detail of his portraits. Allan Ramsay on the other hand had another artist complete the clothing and other details after he'd painted the faces.

    Little study has been done into the Highland portraits by William Mosman, some of which are only attributed to him, probably because painting Jacobites during the '45 era was fraught with all sorts of professional and personal difficulties. His portrait of James Moray, Yr of Abercairney is less well known that many but the similarity of the figure to that of the elder of the MacDonald Boys is obvious. I have flipped the Moray portrait for ease of comparison. They both date to c1750 but one must obviously pre-date the other and was probably used as the template for the second. It raises the intriguing question of the reliability of any of the tartans shown as no contemporary example of any of them is known to survive although there are a number of surviving artefacts that are similar to some of those depicted.

    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	MacDonald Boys Vs James Moray of Abercairney.jpg 
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    Last edited by figheadair; 2nd July 16 at 01:46 AM. Reason: More info

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  3. #2
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    What I'm fascinated by is that although one is clearly a "copy" of the other, pains were taken to change the setts of the tartans involved. I would think this argues for more reliability in terms of the tartans presented...

  4. #3
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    I just looked over a site on William Moseman. His "life dates" are 1700 to 1771. The two paintings you present would have been done by a middle-aged man.

    Here's what I know about artists. They like subjects (portraits) that they can paint quickly (time is money after all). Posing the two boys exactly would 1) be easier to keep the children still for the "sitting" as it is an easy pose to hold, 2) possibly a form that Mr. Moseman was comfortable doing and fast while sketching.

    One other thing I would consider is the client. One family that has a portrait of his in their home, would recognize another of his paintings if the subject is posed like theirs. Accolades were spread by word of mouth for most artist during that era.

    I see the detail of the two tartan outfits in minute detail. The differences I see are in cuff and collar fringe, hem shapes of waistcoat and jacket. The hose are different pattern, as is the bias of the waistcoat of the second painting. I feel the detail was spent on the unique items of the attire than the pose of the two boys. I think that the Sett sizes of the two tartans is different also, but would have to measure (compare by proportion) one to the other.

    These are my best guesses without standing in front of the paintings.

  5. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by davidlpope View Post
    What I'm fascinated by is that although one is clearly a "copy" of the other, pains were taken to change the setts of the tartans involved. I would think this argues for more reliability in terms of the tartans presented...
    I not so sure that that holds for the Abercairney portrait. The coat tartan is painted inconsistantly, look at the two areas circled, in particular note the size of the red next tothe broad black. In addition, the waistcoat is painted on the bias which is unusual, possibly unique, for that period.

    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	James Moray, Yr of Abercairney c1750 by William Mosman.jpg 
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    There are some other interesting features of these two portraits, such as; the feileadh beag is roughly pleated all round which suggests the use of a draw-string, the sporran is shown worn under the waistcoat and a small belt worn over the top of it, exact purpose of which is unclear.

  6. #5
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    The gap of the red to the wider black on the sleeve matches the gap of the kilt sett. The face of the jacket space, may have meant to indicate a wrinkle or fold of the body thus giving depth to the subject of the painting.
    I don't like that the two are not equal distances from the shoulder. That focuses on the tailoring of the jacket. That should also be discussed but maybe not in this thread.

  7. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tarheel View Post
    The gap of the red to the wider black on the sleeve matches the gap of the kilt sett..
    Whilst similar, the tartans of the coat and kilt are different.

  8. #7
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    Agreed that the kilt, jacket (and now I think the vest) are all different patterns of plaid.

    Now I wish I could study the brush strokes and pigment differences. The paint hues would gives clues I don't have.
    Last edited by Tarheel; 2nd July 16 at 02:58 PM. Reason: more thoughts

  9. #8
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    It's intriguing for sure, but as a portraitist myself I'm not going to accept the similarity of two portraits as proof that an artist used a "template".

    If you look at dozens of portraits from any time period you'll see that certain poses were in vogue at certain times. In current portrait photography, the photographer will instruct the sitter how to sit, and a vast number of photographers churn out a much more vast number of portraits showing identical poses and near-identical dress.

    I've seen many 18th century portraits and poses like that were common.

    True that the costume too is very close! But show me more. If I see a half-dozen paintings by the same artist with the same costume AND pose I'll start believing in a "template".

    It's true that a wealthy person would hire a top portraitist to paint them, then hire lesser artists who specialized in copying to make one or more copies of it. The original is a true portrait painted from life, the copies are mere copies. The sitter wasn't present.

    It's true that the backgrounds were often fanciful stereotypical things- it's what was in vogue at the time. And also true that a painter will paint the face from life, but might work up the body from "cartoons" (sketches) done from life but added to the painting later. You could even have a different person pose for the body- I've done that myself.

    But wealthy sitters are vain and I'm sure they would want their expensive clothes accurately depicted. If there was a "body double" the wealthy client, I'm sure, would dress them in the exact clothes they wanted to be seen in.
    Last edited by OC Richard; 14th July 16 at 02:41 AM.
    Proud Mountaineer from the Highlands of West Virginia; son of the Revolution and Civil War; first Europeans on the Guyandotte

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  11. #9
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    This image and Morier's Incident at Culloden come to mind when thinking of bias cut upper body garments in general. Now among reenactors, you literally have to carry around a manila folder of images as proof if you have the audacity to not bias cut your clothing........

    OK perhaps Ive overstated my case, but not by much.

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