As far as heirlooms are concerned, it’s certainly no ordinary family treasure.
A long-lost portrait of the tenth Duke of Hamilton has been reunited with the family after it was sold almost a century ago.
Now on display at Lennoxlove House in Haddington, the impressive oil painting – previously owned by Lord Cowdray – captures the duke in military uniform alongside his Arabian charger.
The artist behind the portrait is none other than Sir Henry Raeburn, one of Scotland’s most famous artists whose sitters included Sir Walter Scott and other leading Scottish figures – although his most famous work is his painting of Reverend Robert Walker, known as The Skating Minister.
Fraser Niven, chief executive of Hamilton and Kinneil Estates, said: “We are delighted that the painting has been reunited with the family at long last and that it is on display to the public.”
The portrait of the tenth Duke of Hamilton – a politician and art collector – was originally housed at Hamilton Palace in South Lanarkshire, which was demolished in the 1920s.
Known as El Magnifico, the duke filled the palace with art treasures and an extensive library.
Raeburn began the massive 8ft by 6ft oil painting in or around 1812. But when he died 11 years later, the completed picture was still at his studio in York Place – because the duke had not paid the bill.
Not long after Raeburn’s death the Duke of Hamilton did eventually acquire the picture.
The portrait sold for 3300 guineas – £3465 – in 1919.
In September, it was snapped up at a Christie’s auction for £67,250.
Mr Niven said: “The tenth Duke of Hamilton was a fantastic collector and had a number of paintings done of himself. But the collection was sold and separated out across the globe.”
The present duke’s grandfather was keen to get the Raeburn portrait back in to the collection in the 1960s, but his attempts were unsuccessful.
The family’s luck changed when the current duke, Alexander Douglas Hamilton, found out about a sale organised by Viscount Cowdray, 67, believed to be Britain’s 66th richest man.
Mr Niven added: “The painting itself is hung in the great hall where we have family events for visitors – it reinforces the whole feeling of a house which is a home.
“That is something that we try and portray to people who use the house for weddings.”
The duke’s uncle, Lord Selkirk of Douglas, said: “In order to make Lennoxlove wind and water tight and completely safe it was necessary to raise funds by selling paintings. Happily, it has not been a totally one-way process and the picture of the tenth duke, who was a great collector of art as well as being ambassador to Moscow, is one of Sir Henry Raeburn’s most evocative pictures which should be housed in Scotland.
“It is now prominently displayed in the Great Hall in Lennoxlove, where it will be seen by the public.
“My father tried to purchase the picture more than 50 years ago and at long last it has come home.”