Circle of Allan Ramsay (Edinburgh 1713-1784 Dover) Portrait of an officer, possibly Major William Caulfeild (circa 1698-1767), three-quarter-length, wearing a red overcoat, a cuirasse and a small sword,
Lot 248* W
Circle of Allan Ramsay
(Edinburgh 1713-1784 Dover)
Portrait of an officer, possibly Major William Caulfeild (circa 1698-1767), three-quarter-length, wearing a red overcoat, a cuirasse and a small sword,
Sold for £21,250 (US$ 28,832) inc. premium

Lot Details
Circle of Allan Ramsay (Edinburgh 1713-1784 Dover)
Portrait of an officer, possibly Major William Caulfeild (circa 1698-1767), three-quarter-length, wearing a red overcoat, a cuirasse and a small sword, pointing to a torrent in a Highland glen
oil on canvas
127 x 101.5cm (50 x 39 15/16in).


  • The pose of a senior officer in the British army pointing to a torrent in a Highland landscape strongly suggests that the present portrait refers to the all-important construction of military roads and bridges that was instigated by General George Wade in 1724 in order to suppress Jacobite discontent in this part of Scotland, including the building, largely by redcoats, of several hundred miles of roads in the Highlands. A portrait purported to be by Thomas Hudson of Wade's successor, Major William Caulfeild, which shows a more mature man but in an almost identical pose, was in the possession of Caulfeild's descendants at the beginning of the last century.

    Not since the days of the Roman empire in Britain had such a road building programme been undertaken and such was Wade's public status that he even features in the original version of the National Anthem:

    Lord, grant that Marshal Wade,
    May by thy mighty aid,
    Victory bring.
    May he sedition hush and like a torrent rush,
    Rebellious Scots to crush,
    God save the King.

    In 1740, after building about 300 miles of military roads, Wade left Scotland, later becoming a Field Marshall, and was succeeded in his work by Major William Caulfeild, who built many more miles of military road than Wade – over 800 miles in fact. Caulfeild named his eldest son, Wade Toby Caulfeild after his mentor and may have written the couplet:

    If you had seen these roads before they were made,
    You would hold up your hands and bless General Wade.

    Between Wade's departure and the Jacobite rebellion in 1745 Caulfeild reconstructed the road between Stirling and Crieff, and a start was made to the road between Dumbarton and Inveraray. The son of the first Viscount Charlemont, Caulfeild became Baggage Master and Inspector of Roads under Wade, which post he held until his death in 1767. Commanders-in-chief relied on his advice in all matters pertaining to roads. During the 'Forty-Five Jacobite uprising he was quartermaster under Sir John Cope and in 1747 was made Deputy Governor of Inverness Castle. Caulfeild's house just outside Inverness was named Cradle House, purportedly on account of a device which he installed to help his guests. He was reputed to have entertained lavishly, to have been able to drink deeply without ill effects, and to have been able to outsit most of his guests. As the casualties slid from their chairs, each in turn was carried to the hall, placed in a 'cradle', hoisted by block and tackle to the upper floor, and put comfortably to bed (see William Taylor, The Military Roads in Scotland, Vancouver, 1976, pp. 24-31).

    Few British portrait painters in the second quarter of the eighteenth century would have had the skill to produce such an accomplished portrait, least of all those who were considered to be the leading portrait painters working in Scotland, such as Jeremiah Davison or (earlier on) William Aikman. The young Ramsay who trained in London, Rome and Naples and continued to maintain a studio in Edinburgh would be a likely candidate for such a serious commission.
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