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'Your Beautiful & Hopeful Family’: Dynasty, Duff House & the House of Duff

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Paul Mellon Centre

16 Bedford Square

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WC1B 3JA

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Research Lunch by Helen Whiting (AHRC Funded Inter-Disciplinary PhD, University of Dundee)

'Your Beautiful & Hopeful Family’: Dynasty, Duff House & the House of Duff

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.

Speaker Biography

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).

Image credit:
William Duff, Lord Braco (1697-1763) and his son George. Painted by William Mosman. Signed and dated: Gul Mosman Pingebat 1741

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Paul Mellon Centre

16 Bedford Square

London

WC1B 3JA

United Kingdom

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