The MOST Brisbane portrait was acquired from a UK auction house in October 2014. There was no provenance provided at the time to support the label verso. "Eleanor, Daughter of Sir Michael Bruce Baronet of Stenhouse. Married Thomas Brisbane of Brisbane". In time this would prove true.
The MOST Brisbane portrait was known to the National Galleries of Scotland in 1964. Their records show the portrait being in the collection of Hector Monro of Williamwood and Craigcleuch. The Monro family were descendants of the Brisbane family, inheriting the Brisbane estate near Largs, Scotland in the 1930's. The portrait was first sold at auction in 2008 as part of the Lord Hector Monro sale after his passing in 2006. This was the first time the portrait left the Brisbane family realm. There was a subsequent sale at auction in 2011, and finally the 2014 sale at auction.
So after having been in the possession of Eleanora and husband Thomas Brisbane, their son Sir Thomas Brisbane and subsequent Brisbane Family members, this precious historical artifact comes to rest in the City of Brisbane.
Early on the priority was to consolidate both the painting and frame. I was fortunate enough to be put in contact with Jo Shea, a professional conservator who has worked at the highest standards in various museums. Jo removed the painting from the frame, cleaned it and finished with an archival varnish. In turn Jo put me in contact with her former colleague Paul Curson. Although long retired Paul was happy to consolidate and touch up the frame suitably for wall display, due to the importance of the portrait subject. Both Jo and Paul were very helpful, professional and just plain nice people.
There is however more conservation work to be done which hopefully profits from MOST BRISBANE merchandise will help complete.
Lacking a signature, the artist was unknown. Upon some hopeful research into 18th century Scottish portraitists I could only see similarities in the work of Scottish artist David Martin (1737 - 1797). I could not prove such a hypothesis, relying only on images seen online which appeared similar in style and pose to the Eleanora portrait. It was some weeks later I received a copy of the National Galleries of Scotland photo and record of the Eleanora Brisbane portrait. To my delight I found they had attributed the portrait to David Martin.
There was no date evident, however the portrait would have been painted after 1771 when Eleanora married Thomas Brisbane. I would like to show here the helpful expert opinion of Erika Inghamn, an assistant curator at the National Portrait Gallery in London.
"The dress and hair suggest that it was painted earlier than 1790. Hair was worn in this style in the 1760s and also in the early 1780s, before and after the towering powdered wigs of the 1770s. She is wearing a style of dress that was more relaxed than high fashion but was often seen in portraits. David Martin painted many of his sitters wearing it, and this pose is also one that he used on several occasions."
Based on this information circa early 1780s would make perfect sense.