Historic 19th Century Receipts Unearthed at Drumlanrig Castle

A collection of receipts for important art works has been rediscovered at Drumlanrig Castle in Dumfries and Galloway.

Receipts detailing the purchase of significant portrait miniatures for the Buccleuch Collection, throughout much of the 19th century, were recently located by an archivist in the castle’s Charter Room.

These include those for the jewel-like royal portraits of Henry VII, Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth by leading 16th and 17th century limners Hans Holbein and Nicholas Hilliard, purchased in 1844 for between £8,8s and £42 apiece.

Crispin Powell, archivist for Buccleuch, said: “The portrait miniatures of the Buccleuch Collection are widely regarded as the most important in private hands, excepting that of the Royal Collection, and this discovery of original receipts is a significant find.
“The miniatures themselves were primarily acquired during the lives of Walter Francis, 5th Duke of Buccleuch (1806 – 1884) and William, 6th Duke of Buccleuch (1831-1914), and their receipts have helped pin-point the dates upon which key portraits officially entered the Collection.
“While we now know the purchase prices for some key miniatures, it’s hard to put a price on their value today. Back in the 1840s, £8,8s – the cost of Holbein’s Henry VIII – was equivalent to more than 40 days wages for a skilled tradesman.”

Other key receipts located include those for miniatures of French monarch Marie Antoinette – purchased in 1862 for £220; religious reformer Martin Luther – purchased for £52 in 1859; French monarch Louis XIV – acquired in 1859 for £85 and Renaissance scholar Desiderius Erasmus – purchased in 1847 for £73.

The Buccleuch Collection houses in excess of 800 portrait miniatures in total, dating back as far as the 15th century, with many acquired by the Buccleuch family through London print-selling firm P. & D. Colnaghi in the 19th century.

These exquisite examples of an art, used to record likeness and provide tangible objects of remembrance during the centuries before the invention of photography and film, are housed across the Duke of Buccleuch’s Estates in the UK: Drumlanrig Castle in Dumfries and Galloway, Bowhill House in the Scottish Borders and Boughton House in Northamptonshire.

A special exhibition of 50 key portrait miniatures was launched in 2014, co-curated by the Duke of Buccleuch and Dr Stephen Lloyd, former senior curator of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery and an international authority on portrait miniatures. The exhibition is now part of the guided tour at Bowhill House. Dr Lloyd recently presented the findings to a gathering of the Art Fund at Bowhill House.


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