About this artwork

Archibald Campbell, Earl of Ilay and later 3rd Duke of Argyll, was the most powerful political figure in Scotland during the mid-eighteenth century. A Whig supporter in the turbulent political climate after the union between Scotland and England, he was a close ally of Prime Minister Robert Walpole. From 1710 until his death he also held the important legal post of Lord Justice-General, the head of Scotland’s highest criminal court. After the death of his elder brother, Ilay succeeded to the most prestigious dukedom in Scotland at the age of 61. He ordered the construction of Inveraray castle in 1746, but never lived there as the building was not completed until nearly three decades after his death. The duke was a personal friend of Allan Ramsay, who painted three different portraits of him.

Allan Ramsay

Allan Ramsay

Ramsay, named after his father who was a poet, was internationally renowned for his outstanding portraits. He attended the new Academy of St Luke in Edinburgh and then continued his artistic education in Italy. He visited Rome, studying at the French Academy and Naples. British residents commissioned many portraits from him and as soon as he returned to London he established a successful studio. He also returned to Edinburgh regularly. King George III appointed him King's painter. As a gifted conversationalist and writer of essays, Ramsay pursued his scholarly interests when injury to his right arm in 1773 cut short his painting career.