Lot 109
  • 109

Alexis-Simon Belle

15,000 - 20,000 GBP
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  • Alexis-Simon Belle
  • Portrait of Alexander, 4th Lord Forbes of Pitsligo (d. 1762), half length, wearing armour and a blue cloak
  • inscribed on the reverse of the canvas: peint a Paris. par. AS (in ligature) Belle / Janvier. 1720..; and later inscribed with the identity of the sitter: Alexr 4th Lord Pitsligo / Died 1762
  • oil on canvas, in a painted oval


Probably the gift of Rebecca Ogilvy (1719 - 1804) widow of John, Master of Pitsligo (1723-1781) to Sir William Forbes, 6th Bt. (1739-1806).


Aberdeen, Archaeological Exhibition, 1859, no. 112.


Will of Sir William Forbes 6th Bart: of Pitsligo [typed transcript n.d. taken from a manuscript from circa 1806] 'Disposition of Pictures, trinkets etc. to his Eldest Son / no. 3. Portraits of the Lords of Pitsligo / all the portraits in (3) were given to Sir William by the widow of the Master of Pitsligo';
Archaeological exhibition: catalogue of historical portraits, exh. cat., Aberdeen 1859, p. 17, no. 112;
Lady Jane Grey Forbes Trefusis, Happy Hours in a Scottish Home, Edinburgh 1902, p. 32;
List of Portraits at Fettercairn House, 1924, p. 3 (Library);
A. McKenzie Annand, 'Lord Pitsligo's horse in the army of Prince Charles Edward, 1745-56', in Journal of Society for Army Historical Research, Winter 1982, vol. LX, no. 244, pp. 226-235, reproduced.

Emery Walker Ltd., 1930.


The following condition report is provided by Hamish Dewar Ltd who are external specialists and not employees of Sotheby's: Structural Condition The canvas is unlined and there is an inscription on the reverse of the canvas. The canvas has been stretched onto what would appear to be the original fixed, wooden stretcher with no cross batons. This is providing a secure and stable structural support. There is an overall pattern of craquelure which appears to be stable. Paint Surface The paint surface has a reasonably even varnish layer. There is slight frame rubbing along the right vertical framing edge. There are some tiny paint losses scattered throughout the paint surface. Some retouchings are visible in natural light, most notably those in the background. Inspection under ultra violet light shows there to be layers of discoloured varnish which have been selectively cleaned in the past. There are a number of retouchings, mainly in the background. The most notable of these are: 1) an intermittent area of inpainting to the left of the sitter's neck which measures approximately 20 x 6 cm, 2) an area to the right of the sitter's hair, measuring approximately 10 x 5 cm, 3) a rectangular area 12 x 4 cm on the sitter's armour just above the lower horizontal framing edge, and 4) a small retouching in the grey hair to the right of the sitter's white collar. There are other small, scattered retouchings which appear to be slightly excessive. There may be further retouchings which are not visible under ultraviolet beneath the discoloured varnish layers. Summary The painting would appear to be in good and stable condition but could benefit from filling and retouching the minimal losses and revarnishing.
"This lot is offered for sale subject to Sotheby's Conditions of Business, which are available on request and printed in Sotheby's sale catalogues. The independent reports contained in this document are provided for prospective bidders' information only and without warranty by Sotheby's or the Seller."

Catalogue Note

Alexander, 4th Lord of Pitsligo (1678-1762), is remembered as something of a local legend. He took part in the Jacobite Rebellion of 1715 at the age of 37 and was subsequently forced to flee to the continent. Thirty years later, and suffering from asthma, he again took up arms in the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745, raising a regiment of over a hundred Aberdeenshire gentlemen and tenants. After defeat at the Battle of Culloden in 1746 Forbes went into hiding around Pitsligo and concealed himself in a cave constructed beneath the arch of a bridge in the moors. He disguised himself as a beggar, and under this pretence even led search parties to his own hiding-place, feigning assistance. He afterwards went by the name of Mr Brown, and when hunted for again in 1756 was purportedly helped by neighbours to hide behind a wainscot, in front of which a lady lay asleep in bed.

Alexander married first, in 1713, Rebecca Norton (d. 1731) (see lot 106), with whom he had one son, John, Master of Pitsligo (c.1713–81); and secondly, in 1731, his wife's companion, Elizabeth Allen (d. 1759) (see lot 107). The present portrait was executed in 1720 when he passed through Paris on his way back to Scotland.