Book tickets
  • 24 November 2017
  • 12:30 – 2:00 pm
  • Seminar Room, Paul Mellon Centre

This paper will consider the link between a set of family portraits and the house within which they were intended to hang. I will discuss the idea of the ‘family group portrait’ not simply existing in one frame but depicted across several canvases nevertheless conceived as a coherent whole. The focus will be a group of five portraits executed by William Mosman (c1700-1771) in 1741 for William Duff of Braco. The portraits were commissioned to hang in Duff House, the grand family seat designed for Braco by the architect William Adam and built between 1735 when its foundation stone was laid and 1741 when work came to halt due to a dispute between architect and patron. The connection between the portraits, those of other family members and worthies, and the place in which they were designed to hang, I will be argue, constituted a conscious, indeed ostentatious, act of dynastic establishment which was orchestrated by Braco and further developed by his son, James. The tools used in establishing ‘the house of Duff’ as a noble entity was, for both men, a partnership of paint and stone.

The paper will offer a close reading of the featured portrait group along with consideration of archival material which highlights the changes in display patterns over time, family relations and dynastic concerns.


Credit for listing and banner image:
William Mosman, William Duff, Lord Braco (1697-1763) and his son George, Signed and dated: Gul Mosman Pingebat, 1741

About the speaker

  • Helen Whiting speaking

    Nel Whiting is undertaking an AHRC funded inter-disciplinary PhD at the University of Dundee. She is using Scottish family group portraits from the second half of the eighteenth century along with archival sources to investigate gendered constructions of national and familial identity. She was awarded the Leah Leneman Essay Prize 2010 by Women's History Scotland for new writing in Scottish gender history and is author of ‘Gender and national identity in David Allan’s ‘small, Domestic and conversation’ paintings.’ in the Journal of Scottish Historical Studies, Volume 34, Issue 1 (May 2014), and ‘Depictions of Childhood in David Allan’s Family Group Portraiture’ in Elizabeth Ewan & Janay Nugent (Eds) Childhood and Youth in Pre-industrial Scotland (Boydell and Brewer, 2015).