The Dashing Captain Murray

Samuel John Stump

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Captain James Murray was the real-life ‘Jack Aubrey’ of his day. Illegitimately born in the British colony of Florida in 1778 and raised in Scotland, Murray (just like the fictional Aubrey) lived through tumultuous times: the Jacobite rebellion was still fresh in people’s minds, and the American War of Independence was still being fought.

Born of landed gentry – his grandfather was Lord Elibank – Murray joined the Royal Navy in 1796 as a volunteer. Ten years later he was made lieutenant and given his first command. For the next twenty years Murray served on many ships in many stations from Russia to the far southern oceans. In 1825 he left the Navy having gained the rank of Post Captain and retired with his wife to Scotland where he died in 1834.

The portrait is signed reverse – ‘S J Stump pinx / 172 New Bond St / London’ – and can be dated to the period 1812 to 1815 when Stump exhibited from that address. It is set in a gold frame that is also glazed on the reverse to show foiled blue glass surrounding an aperture of plaited hair.

As can be seen from his portrait Murray, like Aubrey, was a tall, handsome young man. And, again like Aubrey, his life contained perhaps more than his fair share of adventures, altercations, duels, and scandalous liaisons!

Previously believed to have been American-born, the artist Samuel John Stump (1778-1863) was actually born in Wiltshire. He studied at the Royal Academy Schools and then worked in London and Brighton where his studio attracted many actors and actresses. The 1861 Census shows 84-year-old Stump living with his daughter Louisa, her husband and his 21-year-old son, Henry James, whose occupation is (somewhat appropriately!) an artificial leg maker!

Item Ref. 7243

Size: framed, 83 x 70mm + bail

Provenance: Bonhams 2007

Literature: A Scion of Heroes: the World of Captain James Murray / Stuart J. McCulloch