About this artwork

This portrait shows Elizabeth Murray the Duchess of Lauderdale, at the zenith of her political and cultural influence. From a Scottish family which rose to prominence at the court of Charles I, Elizabeth received an intellectual education unusual for a woman. Following the death of her first husband, Sir Lionel Tollemache, Elizabeth married John Maitland the 2nd Earl of Lauderdale in 1672. Known for their extravagance and extensive patronage, this portrait, painted in the grand manner of the European Baroque, emphasises the duchess’s status. Gennari has depicted her sitting in a high backed chair with a parrot perched on her hand; both signifiers of wealth and social standing.

Benedetto Gennari

Benedetto Gennari

Born into an artistic family, Gennari trained under both his father and uncle in Bologna, Italy. His early paintings particularly reflect the influence of his uncle, Baroque painter Guercino. In 1672 he travelled to Paris before crossing to England in 1674. He remained there for the next fourteen years, producing some 138 works and establishing himself as a notable painter to the Royal family. Although never officially granted a court appointment, his most significant commissions came from Charles II and his successor, James VII and II. Following the 1688 revolution, Gennari joined the exiled James in St Germaine-en-Laye, France, where he remained with the Jacobite court until 1692. He then returned to Bologna and in 1710 helped found the Accademia Clementina.