John, 2nd Duke of Argyll and Duke of Greenwich (1680-1743) oil on canvas 120.6 x 96.4 cm. (47 1/2 x 37 15/16 in.)
PROVENANCE: Mrs J E Moon, The Old Rectory, Sulham, Pangbourne, Berkshire Sale; Christie's, London, 27 May 1955, lot 6 (7 guineas to Leggatt) Sale; Christie's, Edinburgh, 26 October 2006, lot 3
John Campbell, 2nd Duke of Argyll and Duke of Greenwich, was Chief of the Clan Campbell as well as a highly successful statesman and soldier, who fought at the battles of Oudenarde and Malplaquet during the War of the Spanish Succession. Depicted here with a coastal fortress in the background and wearing the sash, jewel and star of the Order of the Garter, he was one of the first two Field-Marshals to be created in the British Army.
In 1724 William Aikman wrote that 'His Grace of Argyle is as much my friend as ever and every day I have some mark of it or other so that I'm happy enough here in good padrons and cannot fail of success if the want of it proceeds not from my own weakness' (letter from William Aikman to his cousin Sir John Clerk Bt, 30 May 1724, Scottish Record Office, Edinburgh, GD18/4595). Aikman and the duke were almost exact contemporaries and the artist enjoyed a close professional relationship with his principal patron, who commissioned many portraits of himself for his family, friends and clients.
After the deaths of his father and elder brother, Aikman inherited the family estate of Cairnie in Angus, whereupon he began to train as painter, studying in London from 1704 and then in Italy from 1707 to 1711, when he returned to Scotland, becoming the pre-eminent portraitist after the death of Sir John Baptiste de Medina. With the Duke of Argyll's support he moved to London in 1720 where he established himself there as a leading portrait painter, numbering Sir Robert Walpole and John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute among his prominent commissions.