About this artwork

This pastel portrait of Gavin Hamilton was made while Skirving was living in Rome. Hamilton was born in Lanarkshire but became a permanent resident of the city in 1756. As well as painting huge historical canvases of classical scenes, he worked as a dealer and an archaeologist, persuading rich British aristocrats to buy important pieces of antique sculpture. He was extremely helpful to young artists, especially fellow Scots, who travelled to Italy to study.

Archibald Skirving

Archibald Skirving

Skirving was born near Haddington, East Lothian. After being educated locally, he began work as a junior clerk at the Customs Office in Edinburgh. It is thought that Skirving also studied at the Trustees' Academy in the city at the same time, while painting miniatures at night. By the end of 1777 Skirving decided to move to London to work as a professional artist. After some success, he returned to Edinburgh in the mid 1780s before spending seven working in Rome from 1787.