WILLIAM AIKMAN (Cairnie, Forfar 1682 – London 1731)
Portrait of Colonel Alexander Campbell of Finab
inscribed Alex Campbell of Finab. AD. 1715 Aetatis 46. in the lower left, and inscribed Alexander Campbell of Finab. / Aet. 46 AD. 1715. / Aikman Pinxt. on the reverse
in a painted oval, oil on canvas
29 x 24 1/2 inches (73.7 x 62.3 cm.)
Sold to the The Black Watch Regimental Museum, Balhousie Castle, Perth, Scotland
Private collection, New York
The portrait of Colonel Alexander Campbell of Finab was painted in 1715 when the sitter was forty-six years old. According to an old inscription on the reverse of the relining canvas, that assuredly copies an inscription on the reverse of the original canvas, the painting was executed by William Aikman. It was presumably commissioned to commemorate the role that Colonel Alexander Campbell played in helping to suppress the first Jacobite rising of 1715. It was not until 1729 when six companies of Highlanders were raised, which, from forming distinct corps unconnected with each other, received the appellation of independent companies. Three of these companies consisted of 100 men each, and were therefore called large companies; Lord Lovat, Sir Duncan Campbell of Lochnell, and Colonel Grant of Ballindalloch, were appointed captains over them. The three smaller companies, which consisted of 75 each, were commanded by Colonel Alexander Campbell of Finab, John Campbell of Carrick, and George Munro of Culcairn, under the commission of captain-lieutenants. To each of the six companies were attached two lieutenants and one ensign. To distinguish them from the regular troops, who, from having coats, waistcoats, and breeches of scarlet cloth, were called Saighdearan Dearg, or Red soldiers; the independent companies, who were attired in tartan consisting mostly of black, green, and blue, were designated Am Freiceadan Dubh, or Black Watch,-- from the sombre appearance of their dress. Colonel Alexander Campbell’s company was based at Lochaber.
Little biographical information is known about Alexander Campbell of Finab. He was the grandson of Archibald Campbell of Lagvinshoch and Monzie (d.1640) and it is recorded that he married Susan Menzies, daughter of Sir Alexander Menzies of Weem.
Born at Cairnie, Forfar on October 24, 1682, William Aikman trained under the portrait painter Sir John Baptist Medina in Edinburgh before spending three years studying in Rome. On his return to his native Scotland in 1712, he quickly established himself as the leading portrait painter in Edinburgh with patronage from the nobility and gentry. Following the death of Sir Godfrey Kneller in 1723, Aikman settled in London where he gained the patronage of Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl of Burlington, and Sir Robert Walpole. His influential friends included the poets Alexander Pope and Thomas Gray. He died in London on June 4, 1731.