About this artwork

James Duff was a wealthy Banff merchant who had ‘acquired a fortune through honest industry'. His affluence allowed him to purchase the Aberdeenshire estate of Corsindae from William Duff, Lord Braco (later the 1st Earl of Fife), for whom he had once been a factor. This portrait shows Duff of Corsindae as an alert elderly gentleman of eighty-three. His restrained, muted clothing and intense stare give the impression of a shrewd and puritanical man. The portrait was obviously admired, as there was another version in the collection of his former employer Lord Braco, the proprietor of Duff House. James Duff’s eldest son and heir William was, like Cosmo Alexander, a strong Jacobite sympathiser.

Cosmo Alexander

Cosmo Alexander

Cosmo Alexander was the son and pupil of John Alexander, an Aberdonian painter and engraver. Cosmo was a portrait painter; however, the defining factor in his life was his belief in the Jacobite cause. He participated in the 1745 Rising, after which he went to Rome to seek refuge. He stayed there from 1747 to 1751, painting portraits of members of the expatriate Jacobite community, including the family of Bonnie Prince Charlie. He travelled throughout Italy and visited Paris before settling in London in 1754. A decade later, he visited the Netherlands, and in 1766, he embarked on an extended tour of the American colonies, where he once again found favour painting portraits of émigré Scots. He was the first teacher of the artist Gilbert Stuart, who he returned to Scotland with in 1771.