L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e ~ D o s t o ï e v s k i

L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e  ~  D o s t o ï e v s k i

Friday, November 9, 2018

"The Archers" - a portrait of the Ferguson brothers by Sir Henry Raeburn, circa 1789-90

This portrait of two Scottish brothers, Robert Ferguson of Raith (18 September 1769 – 3 December 1840) and the future Lieutenant-General Sir Ronald Ferguson (8 February 1773 – 10 April 1841), was painted at the turn of the last decade of the eighteenth century, when the two subjects would have been twenty and sixteen, respectively. The only direct light in this striking and atmospheric painting plays along the face and flexed right arm of the elder brother, while the younger is completely in shadow, his portrait contained within the triangle of his brother's left arm, the bow, and the taught bowstring. The composition would seem to have been inspired by a contemporary revival of archery as a fashionable sport. Both of the brothers - Robert in 1792, Ronald in 1801 - went on to become members of the Royal Company of Archers.

Both would later serve in Parliament, but the younger prefaced his political concerns with a very successful and much decorated career in the British Army. The elder is most remembered now for his infamous affair with Mary Nisbet, the Countess of Elgin. Her husband - that same Elgin who carried off to England the Parthenon marbles which still sit, most controversially, in the British Museum - sued Ferguson and won a huge settlement. After her inevitable divorce, the Countess and Robert Ferguson married. As they had no children together, his estates passed to his brother Ronald and down through another two generations until the family line died out.

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