Margaret Rannie Elliott

After Raeburn


It was in 1765 that Margaret Rannie, the daughter of a wealthy Leith victualler and merchant, married Cornelius Elliott. Cornelius was the Laird of Wolfelee with an impressive (albeit haunted*) manor house in Hawick but he chose to live in Edinburgh where he practised law and, as a Writer to the Signet, had the authority to issue warrants. The couple would have been prominent in Edinburgh society so, when they decided to have their likenesses taken, it was natural that they would turn to the leading portrait painter in Edinburgh at that time, Sir Henry Raeburn. Self-taught, Raeburn initially practised ‘painting in little’ before progressing to larger scale oil portraits. Around 1770 he was commissioned by the Elliotts to paint individual portraits of Cornelius, Margaret and their eldest son. These portraits were later loaned by the family to the Raeburn Exhibition of 1876. The portrait of Cornelius is now in the collection of Princeton University Art Museum but the whereabouts of Margaret’s portrait is currently unknown.

This portrait of Margaret shown with her unpowdered hair upswept has traditionally also been attributed to Raeburn and may have been painted at the same time either by the artist or by his studio as a personal love token for her husband to have about his person. Margaret died in 1796, aged 59.

The portrait is set in the original gold plated frame with a reeded edge. Unusually it is backed with native Scottish agate.

* The story goes that Wolfelee (or Woollie) House was haunted by a little boy dressed in blue. In 1716 a Rev. Thomson was asked to perform an exorcism in the house but whilst so doing he was killed by a bolt of lightning. The house was destroyed by fire in the 1970s.

Item Ref. 6961

Size: framed, 48 x 37mm