New Raeburns & Van Dyck for the Scottish Portrait Gallery
December 3 2014
The Scottish National Portrait Gallery has acquired the above handsome portraits by Raeburn, of Lady Helen Montgomery (d.1828) and her father-in-law, Sir James Montgomery. The acquisition came through the UK government's Acceptance in Lieu scheme, and settled £210,000 worth of death duties. We are not told where the portraits came from; ie, what a nice irony it would be if, after the referendum, they were allocated to a Scottish gallery from an estate in England...
The Raeburns are not the SNPG's only AIL acquisition of late - the below portrait by Van Dyck, of the 2nd Earl of Haddington, was acquired in place of £400,000 of tax (cheap, in my view). This picture, however, remains 'in situ' at Mellerstain House in Berwickshire. Sometimes this 'in situ' arrangement works well, if, for example, a work of art hangs in an interior that was built around it. But in the present case I'm not so sure it does. The picture currently hangs in the small, side wing public entrance to Mellerstain, just opposite the cash till. There seems to me to be no compelling reason for the picture not to be on display in a more publicly accessible place, such as the SNPG itself. But it's not even on their website (hence the rubbish photo).