David Allan

David Allan, 1744 - 1796. Artist (Self-portrait) (1770)

About this artwork

David Allan painted this self-portrait during his stay in Rome from 1767 to 1777, a very successful period in his early career. He has depicted himself as a gentleman-connoisseur in a grand Roman apartment, which is unlikely to have been his actual home at the time. Porte crayon in one hand, he looks away from his drawing of the view from his window and stares at the viewer. Falling off the table is another work, a copy after Agostino Carracci’s Venus fresco in the Farnese Gallery in Rome. Here, Allan alludes to his study of old masters, something which was deemed an essential part of an artist’s education. This self-confident portrait shows the young artist already at the height of his powers and yet full of ambition.

David Allan

David Allan

Allan was born in Alloa, on the Firth of Forth, and attended the Foulis Academy in Glasgow for seven years. In 1767 he moved to Rome, where he lived for ten years; this was the most successful period of his life. In Rome Allan painted ambitious historical pictures, portraits, caricatures and genre scenes. On returning to London in 1777, he spent two years trying to establish himself. Unsuccessful and ill, he returned to Scotland where he specialised in painting family groups. He also produced book illustrations and was appointed master of the Trustees' Academy in Edinburgh.