Sir Henry Raeburn (Scottish, 1756–1823)
Colonel Alastair Ranaldson Macdonell, 15th Chief of Glengarry, 1812
Oil on canvas
95 1/4 x 59 1/2 in.
Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh
© Trustees of the National Galleries of Scotland
This magisterial painting by Edinburgh’s foremost portraitist of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries presents one of the most colorful characters of the era. Displayed to acclaim at the Royal Academy in London, the portrait secured Raeburn’s membership in the organization. An eccentric, larger-than-life figure, Alastair Ranaldson Macdonell of Glengarry, the fifteenth Chief of the Macdonell Clan, devoted his life to preserving and perpetuating the customs and traditions of the Highlands. Adopting a commanding pose and arrayed in his clan’s tartan, with rifle in hand, he asserts his proud allegiance to a vanishing past. His friend the novelist Sir Walter Scott referred to him as “a kind of Quixote of our age, having retained in its full extent whole feelings of Clanship and Chieftainship elsewhere so long abandoned.”