Old Masters Day Auction

Old Masters Day Auction

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 209. Portrait of a boy from the Wedderburn Family, probably Charles Wedderburn of Pearsie (1748–1829).

Property from an English Private Collection

Katherine Read

Portrait of a boy from the Wedderburn Family, probably Charles Wedderburn of Pearsie (1748–1829)

Lot Closed

July 7, 02:47 PM GMT


4,000 - 6,000 GBP

Lot Details


Property from an English Private Collection

Katherine Read

Dundee 1723 - Between India and London 1778

Portrait of a boy from the Wedderburn Family, probably Charles Wedderburn of Pearsie (1748–1829)

oil on canvas

unframed: 69 x 55 cm.; 27¼ x 21¾ in.

framed: 82 x 68.5 cm.; 32¼ x 27 in.

Probably commissioned by Robert Wedderburn of Pearsie (1708–1786);
Thence by descent to Sir Ernst Maclagan Wedderburn (1884–1958);
Thence by descent to the present owner.
Probably A.D.O. Wedderburn, The Wedderburn Book: A history of the Wedderburns in the counties of Berwick and Forfar, designed of Wedderburn, Kingennie, Easter Powrie, Blackness, Balindean and Gosford ..., vol. 1, printed privately 1898, p. 326 (as Miss Read).

This portrait of a boy almost certainly depicts Charles Wedderburn of Pearsie (1748–1829). Descending directly from the Wedderburn of Pearsie line, this painting is most probably the same as that described hanging in Pearsie, Kirriemuir, Scotland, in a publication on the Wedderburn family history published in 1898.1Furthermore, this is a rare oil painting by the female artist Katherine Read (1723–1773).2 Despite being more widely known as a pastellist, Read also produced portraits in oils. Born in Dundee, Read's training has generally been assumed to have been heavily influenced by the French tradition. Her own self-portrait, preserved in a private collection, is a homage to Maurice Quentin de La Tour's (1704–1788), an artist to whom she referred as 'my old master' in 1751.3 A comparison to the other few surviving oils by Read, most notably a portrait of Lord Fortrose and Dr Mackenzie in an oval, makes for a compelling argument.The oval format, a device particularly favoured by French artists in the eighteenth century but less so in Britain, is another distinctive feature of Read's work in pastels and oils.The attribution to the artist is further supported by the 1898 publication, which refers to Charles' portrait as by 'Miss Read'.

The connection between Read and the Wedderburn family was also strengthened by blood links, as Katherine was the niece of the Jacobite Sir John Wedderburn, who was executed after the failure of Culloden in 1745. The link between the sitter and artist is also suggested by the fact that in 1787 Charles married an Anne Read (d. 1789), who is likely to have been a distant relative of Katherine.

Charles Wedderburn of Pearsie, head of that particularly branch of the family, matriculated at St Andrew's University in 1762 and later considered entering the French service whilst in Paris in 1765. He eventually entered the military service of the East India Company and served as aide de-camp to Brigadier-General Wedderburn, commander of the forces in Bombay. He was promoted to Captain in 1781 and eventually retired four years later and returned to Scotland. A portrait of him, painted at the end of the century on his return from India, was recorded in the aforementioned 1898 family history. He died in 1829 without issue and was succeeded by his nephew.

1 Wedderburn 1898, p. 326. The portrait is referred to as 'about 1770, by Miss Read, which shows him in the East India Company's uniform'. It is possible that the writer, by no means an historian of dress, dated the portrait later and interpreted the red coat as EIC uniform to tie this in with Charles' later career. Although the painting medium is not described, the reference to Read as the artist is compelling.

2 For the most detailed description of Read's career see: http://www.pastellists.com/articles/read.pdf

3 A.F. Stuart, 'Miss Katherine Read, court paintress', in Scottish Historical Review, vol. 2, 1905, p. 39.

4 M. Morgan, 'British Connoisseurs in Rome: Was it painted by Katherine Read (1723–78)?', in The British Art Journal, vol. VIII, no. 2, 2006, p. 43, reproduced fig. 6.

We are grateful to Neil Jeffares for drawing attention to this feature of Read's work.

6 Wedderburn 1898, p. 326, reproduced.