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Cecilia Douglas











Cecilia Douglas (28th Feb 1772 - 25th Jul 1862) was described as the 'Grande dame of Glasgow'. An art collector, she was the daughter of John Douglas, sister of the partners in J, T and A Douglas, and widow of Gilbert Douglas.

Cecilia Douglas, only surviving daughter of John Douglas, merchant in Glasgow, and sister of General Sir Neil Douglas and of 6 other brothers, members of the once well known firm of John Thomas and Archibald Douglas, the last survivor of whom was the late Thomas Dunlop Douglas of Dunlop.


She married Gilbert Douglas in 1794 but was widowed in 1807.


The Orbiston estate was the creation of Cecilia Douglas from the estates she inherited of Douglas Park and Boggs, to which she added by purchase.


She survived her husband 55 years, and died at Douglas Park, or Orbiston house as she latterly called it, in July 1862 aged 91. She was the last survivor of the original nominees on the Tontine buildings at the Cross. Mrs Douglas left a large fortune, and a fine collection of paintings and sculptures, which she made during her extended residence in Italy and which was presented to the Corporation of Glasgow (who deposited them in their Galleries in Sauchiehall Street) in accordance with her direction to deposit it 'in some public institution in Scotland'. She also gave large windows to the Cathedral in Glasgow.

There is a memorial plaque on the wall of St Brides Collegiate Church, Bothwell, Lanarkshire to the memory of Gilbert Douglas of Douglas Park born 28/05/1749 died 10/03/1807 (possibly an error for 10/03/1810) and also of Cecilia Douglas of Orbiston his wife born 28/02/1772 died 25/07/1862.


Following the abolition of slavery, she was awarded half the compensation for the Mount Pleasant estate on St Vincent.  The Mount Pleasant estate belonged to Gilbert Douglas, together with a cotton plantation Fairfield in Demerara (of which there is no trace in the compensation records).




The Douglas collection:


  • Still-life: Herring, Cherries and Glassware, Willem van Aelst, 1680

  •     A marble tabletop draped with a curtain supports a silver plate carrying a herring, cherries and wineglass.
  • View of the Roman Forum, Gaspare Gabrielli, 1824

  •     The Italian landscape setting shows the ruined columns of the Temple of Vespasian the temple of Castor and Pollux.
  • The Death of Julius Caesar, Vincenzo Camuccini, c1825-29

  •     Caesar is attacked in the Senate by a group including Brutus and falls under their daggers.
  • Roman Women Offering Their Jewellery in Defence of the State, Vincenzo Camuccini, c1825-29
        A mass of robed women gossip as they line up.

  • The paintings (some or all) are held by Glasgow City Council. The paintings, including an Old Master which is currently on public display, have been housed in Kelvingrove since being donated by Cecilia Douglas on her death in 1862. In 2012, it was questioned as to whether it was appropriate to display works of art acquired through wealth accumulated through the proceeds of slavery.

    Cecilia Douglas Bequest
    Cecilia Douglas (1772-1862) was the sister of several prominent Glasgow-West India merchants, and also became an enslaver in the British West Indies. In 1793, she married Gilbert Douglas. When he died in 1807, Cecilia Douglas inherited his Scottish estates in Douglas Park and Boggs in Lanarkshire, before purchasing nearby Orbiston.  She also inherited his part share of the sugar plantation Mount Pleasant in St Vincent and claimed over £3000 for Enslaved people when plantation slavery was abolished in 1834.391 It is also apparent that Cecilia Douglas had travelled Italy in a grand tour; collecting artworks.

    As per her settlement:
    I am anxious to preserve the collection of pictures, sculpture Pietro duro tables and cabinets marble tables vases Etruscan vases mosaics and Cabinet of China and other works of art purchased by me during my residence abroad and being satisfied that this can be affected only by them being deposited in some Public Institution.

    Therefore I hereby direct and appoint my said Trustees or Trustee…to present the said pictures sculpture Pietro duro tables and cabinets marble tables vases Etruscan vases bronzes mosaics and Cabinet of China and other works of art conform to an inventory thereof to be made out and subscribed my me as relative hereto as a Donation from me to such public institution in Scotland as my said Trustees or Trustee and their on his aforesaid may consider to be the best calculated to accomplishing this my wish and intention or as I may hereafter appoint.




    Any contributions will be gratefully accepted



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    Last modified: Friday, 17 May 2024