James Wales

Charles Leslie ('Mussel Mou'd Charlie'), 1677- 1782. Jacobite ballad-singer (1780)

About this artwork

Known as ‘Mussel Mou'd Charlie’ from a mussel-shaped extension of his lip, Leslie was an Aberdeenshire ballad-singer who died in 1792, aged 105. A fervent Jacobite, he not only sang songs supporting the cause, but was supposed to have fought in the 1715 and 1745 uprisings. An account by a contemporary of Leslie’s accurately describes how the singer is portrayed in this painting: “He was a remarkable thin made man, about five feet ten inches high, small and fiery eyes, a long chin, reddish hair and since I ever knew him carried a long pike staff a good deal longer than himself, with a large harden bag slung over his shoulders before him, to hold his ballads, and a small pocket covered Bible with a long string at it.”

James Wales

James Wales

Born in Peterhead, Wales moved to Aberdeen at a young age. Whilst at the city’s Marischal College he began selling small painted portraits on tin plates. Seemingly self-taught, Wales caught the attention of art amateur, Francis Peacock, who gave him several commissions. By 1783 Wales had moved to London and began exhibiting his portraits at the Society of Artists and the Royal Academy. In 1791 he travelled to Bombay and met Sir Charles Warre Malet, the Resident at the Maratha Court. Malet gave Wales patronage and he painted many of the Maratha chiefs and their ministers. Whilst there, Wales met the artists Thomas and William Daniell who encouraged him to continue with his drawings of Indian caves and temples. In 1800 Malet published several of Wales’s drawings of Bombay.