ilkie was only thirteen years old when Seringapatam fell in 1799,
and he did not receive the commission for
portrait until five years after Baird's death on 25th August 1829.
The following year, Wilkie was appointed Painter to George IV and was
knighted in 1836.
A full length oil painting from the life, by the great Scottish artist,
Sir Henry Raeburn, and a marble bust by the Perthshire sculptor, Lawrence
Macdonald, were Wilkie's prime sources for his great posthumous portrait.
The artist took great pains to obtain a true likeness of Baird, and
made numerous compositional sketches, as
well a preparatory studies in oil. 'The interest of the subject I find
grows as I proceed,' he wrote in June 1837. 'The subordinate figures
and the back-ground I generally leave till the principal figures are
painted in.' Although some of the figures were representative, rather
than specific portraits - the soldier on Baird's left, for example,
is merely described as 'Highland soldier, a M'Leod of the 71st.' -
Lady Baird insisted that the figure of young Colonel Wellesley should
be included, and Wilkie placed him behind Baird's right shoulder. By
this date, Wellesley had become the great Duke of Wellington, and had
recently sat to Wilkie for his portrait.
Despite all Wilkie's research and preparation, critical reaction to
the portrait was generally unfavourable, and this was directed especially
at the central figure of Baird himself, which seemed awkward and unconvincing.
Certainly Hickey's drawing of 1799 and the watercolour of 1802, attributed
to De Loutherburg offer far more convincing
portraits of the brave Scot.