We are pleased to offer for sale this lovely three quarter length portrait of an elegant Lady, standing with her chow chow dog beside her, by the Scottish artist John Horsburgh 1835-1924, who has signed the painting Horsburgh Edin’ and indistinctly dated it, possibly 1901, in the lower right hand corner. The lady is wearing a large cream coloured hat decorated with ostrich feathers on her upswept auburn hair. She is wearing a cream, high necked tea gown, decorated with cream lace on the bodice, down the skirt, around the upper sleeves and on the wrist, and has a gold coloured wrap edged with cream feathers draped over her wrist. The lace neckline of the dress is backed by turquoise material, which matches the turquoise jewellery that she is wearing, including a heart shaped pendant, a long gold necklace with turquoise beads, and two diamond and turquoise rings, as well as a diamond bangle on each wrist and a diamond ring on her right hand.
We thought it might be interesting to discover the history of the chow chow dog in Scotland and found that a lady by the name of Lady Dunbar of Mochrum wrote a book about chows in 1914, which had two more editions published until 1924 and is still well regarded today. We saw a photograph of this lady with two of her blue chows and it is therefore a strong possibility that this is her, but details about her are limited, other than that we think she was the wife of the 9th Baronet of Mochrum.
John Horsburgh, 1835-1924 was born on 6th February 1835 in Eddleston, Peeblesshire, the son of a shoemaker. He was apprenticed to a silk mercer in Edinburgh in his youth, but his interest soon turned to photography, and by 1863, he had set up his studio in Edinburgh in South Bridge, which moved briefly to 17 Princes Street and finally to 131 Princes Street by 1868. By the 1871 Census, he was living at 13 Abbortsford Park Edinburgh and he was employing 3 photographers and 3 artists, presumably to colour in the photograhs, which was often done in those times. In the 1881 Census he was a man of 46, listed as an Artist and Photographer and living at 10 Strathearn Road.
Between 1889 and 1898, his business changed to John Horsburgh & Son (This son being John Alfred Horsburgh, born 1862, who also painted). In 1891 he was living at ‘Albania’, 48 St. Albans Edinburgh where he was working from home as an Art Consultant and Painter. After 1898, when John Senior retired from the photography business, the business became John A. Horsburgh until 1915 at 4 West Maitland Street. By the 1901 Census, he was listed as a Retired Artist and Portraitist at Aberdour House, Aberdour, Fife. (This house was used by Admiral Beatty of Jutland fame during WWI) However, he was still offering his services as a portraitist in the 1920s, according to his letter head, where he offered portraitute without tedious life sittings at The Langham Hotel in London, in private residences, chambers and clubs, and in Corstorphine in Edinburgh. Possibly he based his portraits on photographs to avoid the sittings). At some stage, he was apparently elected a Fellow of the Royal Scottish Society of Arts, as some of his paintings show FRSSA after the signature.
John Horsburgh died at the end of September 1924, as his obituary appeared in The Scotsman on 1st October 1924. Anyone wishing to see more examples of his work, details of his family life (he had 10 children by his wife Agnes, nee McIntosh, who he married in 1856, 8 of whom survived him).