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John Michael Wright 1617-1694
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John Michael Wright 1617-1694

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Three quarter length portrait of John Maitland, 1st Duke of Lauderdale (1612-1682) dressed in a richly embroidered doublet with lawn collar, and holding a stick in his right hand and standing before a column draped in blue curtains


Oil painting on canvas 50 x 40 inches and contained within a carved and giltwood frame


Provenance: ..............from a collection in Florida, USA


Previously unpublished. Painted circa 1670 on costume grounds


John Maitland was born at Lethington on 24 May 1616, the eldest surviving son of John, 2nd Lord Maitland of Thirlestane, and later (1624) 1st Earl of Lauderdale. Maitland began public life as a zealous adherent of the Presbyterian cause, took the Covenant, sat as an elder in the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland at St Andrews in July 1643, and was sent to England as a Commissioner for the Covenant in August, and to attend the Westminster Assembly in November.

In February 1644 he was a member of the Privy Councils of both England and Scotland, and was one of the Commissioners appointed to treat with the king at Uxbridge when he made efforts to persuade Charles I to agree to the establishment of Presbyterianism. In 1645 he advised Charles to reject the proposals of the Independents and in 1647 approved of the king's surrender to the Scots.

At this period Lauderdale veered round completely to the king's cause, had several interviews with him, and engaged in various projects for his restoration ,offering the aid of the Scots on the condition of Charles's consent to the establishment of Presbyterianism.. He obtained from Charles at Carisbrooke Castle the “Engagement” by which Presbyterianism was to be established for three years, schismatics were to be suppressed, and the Acts of the Parliament of Scotland ratified, the king in addition promising to admit the Scottish nobility into public employment in England and to reside frequently in Scotland.

Returning to Scotland, in the spring of 1648, Lauderdale joined the party of Hamilton in alliance with the English Royalists. Their defeat at Preston postponed the arrival of the Prince of Wales but Lauderdale had an interview with the prince in the Downs in August, and from this period obtained supreme influence over the future king. He persuaded him later to accept the invitation to Scotland from the Argyll faction, accompanied him thither in 1650 and in the expedition into England, and was taken prisoner at Worcester in 1651, remaining in confinement till March 1660.

Just before the restoration, he joined Charles in May 1660 at Breda he was appointed Secretary of State for Scotland. From this time onwards he kept his hold upon the king, was lodged at Whitehall was "never from the king's ear nor council," and maintained his position against his numerous adversaries by a crafty dexterity in dealing with men, a fearless unscrupulousness, and a robust strength of will, which overcame all opposition.

Though a man of considerable learning and intellectual attainment, his character was exceptionally and grossly licentious, and his base and ignoble career was henceforward unrelieved by a single redeeming feature.

He abandoned Argyll to his fate, permitted, if he did not assist in, the restoration of episcopacy in Scotland, and after triumphing over all his opponents in Scotland drew into his own hands the whole administration of that kingdom, and proceeded to impose upon it the absolute supremacy of the crown in kirk and state, restoring the nomination of the lords of the articles to the king and initiating severe measures against the Covenanters. In 1669 he was able to boast with truth that "the king is now master here in all causes and over all persons."

His own power was now at its height, and his position as the favourite of Charles II, controlled by no considerations of patriotism of statesmanship and completely independent of the English Parliament recalled the worst scandals and abuses of the Stuart administration before the Civil War. He was a member of the CABAL [*] Ministry, but took little part in English affairs and was not entrusted with the first secret Treaty of Dover but gave personal support to Charles in his degrading demands for pensions from Louis XIV. On 2nd May 1672 he was created Duke of Lauderdale and Earl of March and on 3rd June Knight of the Garter. He was also appointed in 1672 Lord President of the Privy Council of Scotland, a position he held until 1681.

In 1673, on the resignation of James in consequence of the Test Act he was appointed a Lord Commissioner of the Admiralty. In October he visited Scotland to suppress the dissenters and obtain money for the third Anglo-Dutch war. The Intrigues organised by Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 1st Earl of Shaftesbury, against his power in his absence, and the attacks in the Commons in January 1674 and April 1675, were alike rendered futile by the steady support of Charles and James.

On the 25th of June 1674 he was created Earl of Guildford and Baron Petersham in the Peerage of England. His ferocious measures having failed to suppress the conventicles in Scotland, be summoned to his aid in 1677 a band of Highlanders who were sent into the western country. In consequence, a large party of Scots nobles went to London made common cause with the English Country Faction and compelled Charles to order the disbandment of the marauders. In May 1678 another demand by the Commons for Lauderdale's removal was thrown out by court influence by one vote.

He maintained his triumphs almost to the end. In Scotland, which he visited immediately after this victory in the Parliament of England, he overbore all opposition to the king's demands for money. Another address for his removal from the Commons in England was suppressed by the dissolution of Parliament on 26th May 1679, and a renewed attack upon him, by the Scottish party and Shaftesbury's faction combined, also failed. On 22nd June 1679 the last attempt of the unfortunate Covenanters was suppressed at the Battle of Bothwell Brig

In 1680, however, failing health obliged Lauderdale to resign the place and power for which he had so long successfully struggled. His vote given for the execution of Lord Stafford is said also to have incurred the displeasure of James. In 1682 he was stripped of all his offices, and he died in August. Lauderdale married (1) Lady Angela Home daughter of the 1st Earl of Home, by whom he had one daughter; and (2) Lady Elizabeth Tollemache (2), daughter of the 1st Earl of Dysart and widow of Sir Lionel Tollemache. He left no male issue; consequently his dukedom and his English titles became extinct, but he was succeeded in the earldom by his brother Charles Maitland, 3rd Earl of Lauderdale.

[*] Sir Thomas Clifford, and Lords Arlington, Buckingham, Ashley and Lauderdale

John Michael Wright was baptised in London on 25th May 1617. It is likely that his family were London-based Scots, for he was apprenticed to the Scottish portrait painter George Jamesone (1589-1644) on 6th April 1636. At the end of his apprenticeship, he travelled to Rome where he became a Roman Catholic and sudied to become a learned antiquary. His painting style developed from the provincial drudgery of Jamesone's studio, and by 1648 he had become a member of the Academy of Saint Luke. He seems to have worked as antiquary/dealer for Archduke Leopole Wilhelm in Flanders 1653-56, when he returned to London, leaving his family in Rome.

By the end of the decade, he had become a successful London portrait painter in a colourful baroque style, but with a due care for character and honesty which is sometimes missing from the productions of Peter Lely, his fashionable rival. He was occasionally employed by the Crown (he painted the ceiling for Charles II's bedroom at Whitehall Palace (Nottingham Castle Museum) and a long series of portraits of Judges for the Guildhall (all but two destroyed in WWII). He was the first portrait painter of substance to visit Ireland (1679-80) and was back in Rome 1685-7 as part of Lord Castlemaine's embassy to the Pope. His career now went into decline as court patronage was lost when James II abdicated, and taste moved towards the newly arrived Sir Godfrey Kneller. His later life was spent in genteel poverty amidst his books and art collection (which he bequeathed to his nephew Michael Wright).

Wright style is vigorous and bold, his colours well saturated and his handling of paint free and confident. His portraits are usually direct and appealing, and have a strong sense of character and strongly suggest an accurate likeness.

Portraits of Maitland are not uncommon: he was painted by Cornelius Johnson in 1649, and a portrait by Lely of the 1660's is recorded by a drawing (BM). He was again painted by Lely in 1672 (version, Ham House (NT) his house in west London) and Jacob Huysmans (NPG). A three quarter length by Benedetto Gennari (1679) is in the Tollemache collection at Helmingham. His latest portrait (c.1680) is by Riley, of which the best version is at Syon House (Duke of Northumberland). He is also depicted in pastel by Ashfield, in miniature by Samuel Cooper, and in a medal of 1646 by Thomas Simon and one of 1672:


John Roettier: portrait medal of the 1st Duke of Lauderdale, 1672





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