David Allan

Sir William Erskine of Torrie and his family (1788)

About this artwork

After returning from his prolonged study trip to Italy, David Allan specialised in painting conversation pieces for Scottish aristocratic families. These were informal group portraits, often in an outdoor setting, and showed the sitters occupied in leisure activities. In this scene, Sir William's sons, William, James and John, present the trophies of a hunt – a fox's mask and tail – to their mother, Lady Frances, and their sisters, Frances, Henrietta, Elizabeth and Magdalene.

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.