Check all the Clans that have DNA Projects. If your Clan is not in the list there's a way for it to be listed. Electric Scotland's Classified Directory An amazing collection of unique holiday cottages, castles and apartments, all over Scotland in truly amazing locations.

Art in Scotland
Chapter III


HAVING referred to paintings by foreign artists of Scottish and other subjects, let us glance at a page of history illustrating the Scottish artist painting abroad. The accounts of the Dukes of Burgundy take notice of two Scotchmen who were employed by that house as painters and carvers of images about the middle of the fifteenth century, and M. Michel, in his 'Ecossais en France,' relates the following episode: After the siege of Orleans, when the heroic and unfortunate Maid accompanied Charles VII. to Rheims, there were many Scotchrnen at the ceremony—the brave Bishop Carmichael, "Messieurs Patrix d'Ohilby, Vicomte d'Angus," and others; but notably Michael Norvill, a squire to whom the king gave as a gift the considerable sum of 150 &us lournois. It is surmised that this Norvill was an envoy of King James of Scotland, and was then preparing to return to his native country. Nothing is more natural, continues Michel, than to suppose that he bore with him the portrait of the heroine who had torn the kingdom from the grasp of the English. Who was the painter of this portrait it is impossible to determine with certainty, but we are nevertheless permitted to conjecture. At the trial of the Unfortunate Maid, she was questioned as to whether she had ever seen or caused to have painted a portrait or image of herself, and replied that at Rheims she had seen in the hands of a Scotchrnan a picture resembling her in armour, kneeling on a cushion in the act of presenting a letter to the king. There appears in the royal accounts of France for the year 1420 the name of Hames Poulevoir, a painter who was then probably at Poitiers, and with more certainty at Tours between 1428 and 1431. It was this Poulevoir who painted the white banner of Jeanne d'Arc—semée with fleurs de us, with a world and two angels, and the motto "Jhesus Marie." His daughter was a friend of La Pucelle, and she was married at the cost of the bourgeois of Tours. When it is considered that the name of Polwarth is a well-known Scotch one; that the name Poulevoir is not native French, and not unlike Polwarth; and also that Hames is the ancient Scoto-French form of James,—we may believe that a Scottish artist was the author of the portrait described by Joan in her examination—a not unreasonable supposition to any one familiar with the transformation of Scottish surnames in old French history. Another of these strangers, if not the same, followed La Pucelle in all her campaigns, and did not quit her till he had witnessed the barbarous tragedy at Rouen, and afterwards ended his life as a monk in the Abbey of Dunfermline. It is known that this monk was familiar with [Annals of Dunfermline.] or left some account of the life of the heroine, the existence of which is as yet undiscovered; and it is supposed that the Dunfermline monk, the painter of the white banner and the thus mentioned portrait, was the same individual. [The same Dunfermline monk is mentioned, after returning from France, in the Preface to the Marchmont and Bodleian MSS. of Fordun, as compiling twelve books of that history at the command of the Abbot of Dunfermline.] The late Dr Hill Burton, who refers to the incident in the 'Scot Abroad,' carries the surmise still further in calling attention to the fact that "Polwarth" was an old patronymic of the house of Home or Hume; that Sir Alexander, the head of the house, was one of Douglas's companions slain at the battle of Verneuil, and left three sons, thus suggesting the idea that one of these remained in France and was the painter of the portrait.

The son of the unfortunate James III. inherited his father's love for art, besides being splendid and chivalrous to a fault. By lavishing his means on the decorations of the royal palaces and the Chapel Royal at Stirling, he set an example to the nobles of his own and the following reigns; and we find Dunbar in his 'Remonstrance' mentioning the employment of "cunyouris, carvouris, and carpentaris," besides "pryntouris, payntouris, and potingaris"; but there is almost nothing left as an example of the art of his reign. From the accounts of his treasurer we learn that he employed foreign as well as native artists, among the latter again occurring the name of Thomas Galbraith. In December 1497 there was paid ij Ii. ix s. to "David Prat ye payntour, in complet payment of ye altar-paynting as resting awand to him." This was probably one of the pictures included in the Chapel Royal inventory already quoted. Numerous other payments, before and after this date, were made to the same painter, more particularly in connection with the burial-place of James III. in the Abbey of Cambuskenneth. The accounts for this tomb extend from March 1501-2 till July 15o8, during which Prat had the masons under his charge—an "Alrnanye" (Fleming or German) being also employed. The final payment for this tomb appears in the Exchequer Rolls under date 7th July I 508, "to the Abbot of Tungland to -if the man that suld inak the kingis lair in Cambuskenneth." This must have been the same "Fenyeit Frier of Tungland" so humorously satirised by Dunbar, who, among his other antics, on September of the same year attempted to fly from the battlements of Stirling Castle by means of a pair of wings, the result of which was that he broke "his thie bane; but the wyte [blame] thereof he ascribed to their beand some hen feathers in the wings, quhilk yarnit and coveted the myddin, and not the skies." [Lesly, quoted in Tytler's Scotch Worthies, vol. iii.]

The entries in the Rolls regarding this tomb illustrate to some extent the variety of work executed or superintended by the olden- time painter, carver, or sculptor. The term mason had then a very different and much wider meaning than that which is now attached to it, and the king's master-mason might mean anything between a painter and builder. [Probably it meant king's architect.] The term master-mason was only applied to a skilful tradesman in distinction from the more inferior workman. Thus, in the "disbursements for taking doune the auld croce and building the new" in Edinburgh in 1617, seven or eight master-masons are specified, who were paid from £4 to £4, 13s. 4d. per week, the ordinary being rated at from £2, 10S. to £3 12s. In these operations a John Taliphere was the principal one employed. The name of John Mime also occurs, the same who was subsequently appointed principal master-mason to the king on the decease of William Wallace twenty-four years later, and one of a long succession similarly employed.

The only known authentic portrait of the knightly but dissolute monarch who met his death on the disastrous field of Flodden is said to be at Abbotsford—dated 1507—by an unknown painter. A rich and beautiful portrait of the same king (engraved in Pinkerton's Portraits), measuring over three feet by two, was at Whitehall during the short reign of James II. and that of Charles I., but must have fallen into private hands after the fire of 1697. It is described in the catalogue of Charles's pictures thus: "Item, beside the door the picture of King James IV. of Scotland, with a faulcori on his fist, done after an ancient water-colour piece—half a figure so big as life. Done by Daniel Mytens," who flourished in the reign of James I. of England. The picture was in 1795 in the possession of a Mr Batsford at Fulham, according to Pinkerton, but is now owned by Mr Stirling of Keir. There is evidence of the visit to Scotland and the probable practice there of a foreign painter in 1503, in the September of which year there was paid "xx French crowns xiiij ii." by the king's command to "ye Inglese payntour quhilk brocht ye figuris of ye King [Henry VII.], Queen, and Princes of England, and of our Queue." In the following November, after an interval of about two months, a propine was given to "Mynour ye Inglis payntour quhen he passit away." It is improbable that the artist would remain at the Scottish Court for two months unemployed, and from the clue thus afforded to his name, it has been surmised that he was John de Mayne, known also by the name of Maynard, employed as a painter under Torregiano on the monument for Henry VII., and also mentioned by Walpole as seal-engraver to the same king. Not only are there occasional references in obscure records to the presence of foreign artists in Scotland about this time, but, as in other periods, there are instances of the importation of works of art from abroad. In the curious ledger of Andrew Halyburton, a Scottish merchant located at Middleburg from 1493 till 1504, where he held the high office of Conservator of the Privileges of the Scottish Nation (consul as we would now define him), mention is made of John of Penicuik importing an image of St Thomas Becket, bought from a painter in Antwerp. The ledger also contains entries of more than one tombstone shipped, to a Scottish order, from Middleburg. [Transactions of Scottish Antiquaries, vol. iii.]

Gleaning again among the pages of the historians of the past, an episode in the life of the young king, James V., points to the practice of portrait-painting at his Court. Quaint old Pitscottie relates how "the king sent his ambassadors to the emperor for marriage—viz., Sir John Campbel of Loudon, knight, Sir David Lindsay of the Mount, Lyon Herald—who were well received by the emperor, and well entertained and greatly rewarded for the King of Scotland's sake; where was presented to them two fair gentlewomen, which were the emperor's sister's daughters, which were fair and pleasant in beauty and seemly in their behaviour; for the which cause the ambassadors brought home their pictures to the king. How he was content therewith I cannot tell, but the marriage proceeded no further. But the king thereafter sent to France other ambassadors, who were well received, and entertained by the Duke of Vendome and his dutchess, and also by his daughters, and granted all things that they desired in the King of Scotland's name, concerning his marriage; but yet they had no commission to end till the king saw the gentlewoman himself. And therefore, soon after, the king seeing his realm in good rest, he dressed himself hastily to France, and sailed there within three days and three nights, till within a day's journey to France. Some say there were lords and gentlemen in his company that desired not to pass to France, but to marry with such as they favoured in Scotland. When the king was sleeping, they caused the shipper to change his course, and come homeward again to Scotland. When the king awaked out of his sleep he was offended at them all, specially to the shipper; but because he had pity and compassion on his wife and bairns, he gave him grace at that time, but he came never in his favour again." After the king "gart" land him at the nearest port on the west of Scotland, he subsequently set sail again from Pittenweem, with a large following, and arrived at Dieppe, where the red lion of Scotland at the masthead was welcomed. Proceeding through Paris to Vendome, the king "disguised himself as he had been a servant, thinking he should not be known, neither to the duke nor to his wife, or the gentlewoman who should have been his spouse, thinking that he should spy their fairness and behaviour. Yet notwithstanding, the fair lady took suspicion that the King of Scotland should be in that company. Wherefore she passed to her coffer and took forth his picture, which she had gotten from Scotland by a secret moyen; then she knew the king, and passed peartly to him, and took him by the hand, and said, 'Sir, you stand over far aside; therefore, if it please your Grace to talk with my father, or me, as you think for the present, a while for your pleasure, you may if you will.'" The secret being out, "there was nothing but merriness, banquetting, great chear, with galliard, dancing in masks, and pretty farces and plays." But the royal game for some reason or other stole away, and some time after came under the glance of the short-lived Princess Magdalene in Paris, where she was "riding in a chariot, because she was sickly," who, from the time she saw and spoke to him, "declared that she would have no man in life to her husband but him allenarly;" and so the marriage was celebrated with great pomp in Notre Dame. James's affection for the ladies, however, was divided by a love for art, as we find from the inventories taken immediately after his death, that he possessed a great number of objects of value and taste, including specimens of fictile ware of artistic merit, some of which were afterwards in the celebrated Bernal collection. [North British Review, 1858.] Besides completing the palace of Holyrood, commenced by the unfortunate James IV., his palace of Stirling was one of the wonders of Scotland, remarkable for the carved roof of Scottish oak of the presence-chamber, containing heads and figures, thirty- eight panels of which have been preserved. These are understood to he the work of John Drummond of Auchterarder, the king's master of works, assisted by "Andrew Wood, carvour," one of the Court workmen. [Allan Cunningham's Lives.] The palace was constructed about 1529, and in 1777, showing signs of decay, was converted into a barracks, the panels being thrown out as rubbish. They thus became scattered among a number of individuals, some finding their way into the common jail of Stirling, where the taste of the prisoners found means to disguise them by a liberal application of white-lead and vermilion to the faces, with yellow hair and gaudy uniforms. The attention of a lady of taste having been drawn to them by a fortunate accident, many were preserved. Nine or ten were purchased by Lord Cockburn, and, on the sale of his collection, passed into that of the Marquis of Breadalbane, from whence they were removed to Langton House in Berwickshire, now the property of the Hon. Mrs Baillie Hamilton; two in the possession of Mr John Crawford, of Leith, passed into the care of Dr David Laing; four are the property of Mr Campbell of Monzie; and one, that of a wingless Cupid, [Not included in the ' Lacunar Strivelensis.'] given by Lord Cockburn to Lord Jeffrey, subsequently went to Mr J. Gibson Craig. The series were engraved and published in 1817 in a volume entitled 'Lacunar Strivelensis,' and consist mostly of heads, the exceptions being grotesque figures of a Court fool, dwarf, &c., all surrounded by circular cartouches of great freedom, showing a feeling of Italian design. [The fool is sometimes identified as being James Mackilrie, the jester of James VI., but the date is too recent.] Among the portraits have been identified those of James V. and his queen, Mary of Guise; James I. and his queen, Jane Beaufort; James IV. and his queen, Margaret Tudor; the others being mere objects of surmise. Very similar to these are some of the old pulpit- carvings in King's College at Aberdeen, and also a door of black oak in the Scottish Society of Antiquaries' Museum, consisting of four panels, each containing a circular entablature, the two upper of which contain a deer's head and an expanded eagle with a star in its claws; the lower compartments contain portraits, supposed to be those of James V. and Mary,—the whole enriched by carved foliage. These formed a portion of the decorations of the palace of Mary of Lorraine. An opinion has been expressed that the carved oak heraldic ceiling in Queen Mary's audience-chamber at Holyrood, of the sixteenth century, is by the same artist. [Scottish Antiquaries' Proceedings. Mr Henry Laing.]

Few specimens of Scottish wood-carving previous to this century now remain, but from this date onwards many very fine and per- feet examples are preserved, mainly as household furniture in the form of cabinets, chests, &c. It is chiefly, however, in ecclesiastical decoration that our oak carvings have developed their great beauty and capabilities. The great glory of King's College of Aberdeen is its magnificent double row of oak canopied stalls, with miserere seats and lofty open screen. In a fine state of preservation, clean and sharp, the whole work is at the same time gorgeous and delicate; the traceried panels are infinitely diversified and relieved by bold massive projections, and the treatment, while architectural, is admirably modified so as to be in harmony with the material employed. The French flamboyant style chiefly preponderates, and "a pulpit of the seventeenth century, not in itself a discreditable piece of work, shows how wood-carving degenerated when the Gothic models were abandoned. It may be stated that there is no woodwork in Scotland capable of a moment's comparison with the stalls of King's College, nor will any English specimens rival them." Other specimens of the art seem to have formerly existed at Aberdeen, such as the high altar in the old cathedral of St Machar, "a piece of the finest workmanship of anything of the kind in Europe," which was hewed to pieces in 1649, by order and with the aid of the parish minister. [Douglas's Account of the East Coast, quoted by Billings. Billings's Antiquities.]

Next to the Aberdeen wood-carvings in point of excellence are the fine stalls in Dunblane Cathedral, of about the same period, but with some traits of Flemish workmanship. A carved door of a similar class of work is preserved in the church of Fowlis Easter. Prior Halderstane, who died in 1443, "adorned the interior of the cathedral of St Andrews, as well with carved stalls as with the images of the saints; " [Report of Visit in 1888 of Glasgow Archological Society, &c.] and there may be further mentioned as a fine specimen of this beautiful art, a canopied pew filled with tracery, probably of the sixteenth century, known as Earl Patrick's pew, in the cathedral of St Magnus at Kirkwall, which is attributed to that tyrannical baron and cruel extortionist. As an example of the state of this art, there remains the mass of fine carvings on the gallery in the Crawford aisle of Kilbirnie Church, executed at the beginning of the eighteenth century or the immediately preceding period. It contains numerous heraldic carvings, and is supposed to have been executed by the orders of John, first Viscount Garnock, whose arms, impaled with those of his wife Margaret, only daughter of John, first Earl of Bute, appear on the work.

To James V. is attributed the palace of Falkland, adorned with heads carved in stone, similar to those in wood from Stirling palace, the chapel of which David Roberts notices as still showing on its ceiling some fragments of the original painting and gilding. In connection with the latter, there are frequent entries in the royal accounts of considerable sums to "the quenis paintour to by colouris" between 1541 and 1542: the painter's name is not mentioned, and one entry shows that he was paid his CC wageis " monthly. Additional entries in the same curious register refer to other native painters: in July1515, Alexander Chalmour had "for ane hundrethe and xl payntit armys to the obsequijs of our Souerane Lord King James the Ferd, quham God assolze, his pay deliuerit in Sanct Gelis Kirk, price of ilk pece tuelf pennys, summa viii ii.;" and in 1535, Andro Watson was paid for "painting v dusan armes v li." In further evidence of the king's taste for pictures, the same year contains an entry of xvii ii. for "certane fyne picturis of Flanders coft fra John Brown, to the kingis grace." Several specimens of the painter's art of this date are in the Scottish Antiquarian Museum, consisting of portions of the painted ceiling of Mary's palace bearing emblematic devices and mottoes, and an oil-painting on panel representing the infant Saviour, inscribed "Opus Felicis de Scotie, 1488." The collection of the late C. K. Sharpe included a group of musicians, possibly one of the painted "brodis" mentioned in the "Quene Regentis Paintrie."

Numerous portraits seem to have been painted in Scotland during this reign, among which may be mentioned a full-length of the king's natural son when a child, said to have been destroyed in a house belonging to the family of Errol in 1586. Lord Seton, ancestor of the Winton family, when ambassador from Mary of Guise, it is said became acquainted with Sir Anthony More, who accompanied him to Scotland, and, among other works, executed for that noble a portrait group, which Charles I. on his visit to Seton House admired so much that the proprietor offered it for the king's acceptance, who, however, declined to deprive the owner of its possession. [The Bee, 1793 : article by Sir G. Chalmers, who refers to a then existing copy by a French painter, locality not mentioned.]

A curious portrait of the Queen Regent, in a high bordered lace cap and a ruff, with the monogram "Maria" burned into the back of the panel, was discovered in the Laigh Hall of Edinburgh, where assemblies both of the Kirk and Estates had often been held. It formed one of the wall panels previously plastered over to level the wall, and passed into the possession of Alexander Mackay, Esq., of Black Castle. [Dr Wilson's Memorials of Edinburgh.] A remarkable pair of portraits of James and Mary are in the possession of the ducal house of Devonshire, bearing the conjugal arms of the houses of Stuart and Guise, and an inscription recording the king twenty-eight and the queen twenty- four years of age. They were lent by the Marquis of Hartington to the Edinburgh Portrait Exhibition of 1884, and drawings of them were formerly in the possession of Lord Orford, whose family probably still retains them. Mary is represented with a red-andwhite carnation in her hand, and the king holds a jewel of St Andrew, with a minutely finished gold medal on his bonnet. They are similar to each other in the pose of the figure and arrangement of the hands, and show no small amount of skill, but whether by a native artist or not is unknown. They are probably French, and enclosed in one frame.

In connection with the same queen, Dr Wilson thus describes a fragment of a curious painting in her chapel, filling an arch on one of the walls, divided into two compartments by very elegant ornamental borders "The picture on the left represented a young man kneeling before an altar, on which stood an open vessel amid flames, while from a dark cloud overhead a hand issued, holding a ladle, and just about to dip it into the vessel. A castellated mansion with turrets and gables, in the style of the sixteenth century, appeared in the distance; and at the top there was inscribed on a scroll the words 'Demum Purgabitur.' In the other compartment a man of venerable aspect was seen, who held in his hands a heart, which he appeared to be offering to a figure like a bird with huge black wings. Above this were the words 'Impossible est.' The other portions of the apartment were decorated in the same style." The same enthusiastic antiquary mentions an old house of about 1590, in the vicinity of the chapel, one of the ceilings of which was "decorated with a series of curious and interesting sacred paintings on wood. A large circular compartment in the centre contained the figure of our Saviour with an aureole, and His left hand resting on a royal orb; within the encircling border in gilded Roman letters on a rich blue ground the words 'Ego sum Via, Veritas, et Vita, 14 Johne.' The paintings in the large compartment represented Jacob's Dream, Christ asleep in the Storm, the Baptism of Christ, and the Vision of the Apocalypse, surmounted by the symbols of the Evangelists. The distant landscape of the Lake of Galilee in the second picture, by a curious but not unusual licence of the early artists, is represented by a view of Edinburgh, including Salisbury Crags and Edinburgh Castle. Other edifices introduced into this curious background serve to fix its date—between 16o6 and 166o. The fifth picture, the most curious of all, exhibits an allegory representing probably the Christian life. A ship of antique form is seen in full sail, and bearing on its pennon and stern the symbol I.H.S. A crowned figure stands on the deck looking forward to a burning city in the distance, and above him the word V. On the mainsail is inscribed 'Caritas,' and over the stern, which is in the form of an ancient galley, '[Sa]piencia.' Death appears as a skeleton riding on a dark horse, amid the waves immediately in front of the vessel, armed with a bow and arrow, which he is pointing at the figure in the ship; while a figure similarly armed, and mounted on a huge dragon, follows its wake, entitled 'Persecutio,' and above it a winged demon, over whom is the word 'Diabolus.' In the midst of these perils there is seen in the sky a radiance surrounding the Hebrew word 'Jehovah'; and from this symbol of the Deity a hand issues, taking hold of a line attached to the vessel. The whole series is executed with great spirit, though now much injured by damp and decay. The broad borders between these are richly decorated with every variety of flowers, fruit, harpies, birds, and fancy devices, and divide the ceiling into irregular square and round compartments, with raised and gilded stars at their intersections. The fifth picture, of which we have endeavoured to convey some idea, possesses peculiar interest as a specimen of early Scottish art. It embodies, though under different forms, the leading features of the immortal allegory contributed by John Bunyan."

During the stirring times of the Reformation, after the battle of Pinkie field was fought on "blacke Saturday" in September 1547, on the field "among other banners was found a banner of white sarcinet, whereupon was painted a woman with her haire about her shoulders, kneeling before a crucifixe, and on her right hand a church; after that, writtin in great Roman letters, AFFLIME SPONS1E NE OBLIVISCARIS! Whether it was the Abbot of Dunfermlin's, or the Bishop of Sanct Andrewes', it is uncertane; but she was fashiouned like a cursed queane, that would plucke her husband by the pate except she had her will, rather than like a meeke spous, that went about by humble submission to crave her husband's helpe for redresse of things amisse." [Calderwood's Historie of the Kirk of Scotland.] If the "glorious painted Ladie," and the painted "boord" which was produced for the Scottish Reformers to kiss during their imprisonment in the French galleys, represented nothing more pleasing than this is described to have been, it is little wonder that one of the martyrs cast it into the river instead, saying, "She is light eneugh; lett her learne to swimme."

A notable man in his time, both as an ecclesiastic and a lawyer, was Robert Reid, who succeeded as Bishop to the see of Kirkwall in 1511. He was also Abbot of Kinloss, and latterly, in 1543, President of the Court of Session. [Catalogue of the Lords of Session. Edinburgh, 1798.] He was one of the ambassadors to France in connection with the marriage of Mary Queen of Scots with the Dauphin, and died at Dieppe on the 14th September 1558. He has the reputation of having completed the western extremity of the nave, with its porch and window, in the cathedral of St Magnus, in a rather earlier style than that of the period. In describing the many good deeds of Abbot Robert Reid (of Kinloss), Ferrerius tells us that in the year 1538 he engaged a painter, Andrew Bairhum, celebrated in his art, but withal contentious and difficult to manage. Andrew was retained for three years at Kinloss, during which he painted three tables for the chapels with saints and evangelists. He painted also, but in the lighter style which the writer mentions as being so prevalent throughout Scotland (sed pictz'ra leviore quc nunc est per Scotiam recptissima), the Abbot's chamber and oratory, as well as a larger apartment. Possibly the same artist may have had to do with other works of this kind of the period, such as the frescoes formerly in the church of St Congan at Turiff, the somewhat similar paintings in the Priory of Pluscardine on the top of the gate leading into the chancel, and those in the parish church of Guthrie. The latter were destroyed during the repairing of the church in 1817, owing to the building having remained roofless for nearly three months.

When we consider the ease with which such works could be destroyed during the time of the Reformation, the accidents which have revealed or preserved some fragments till our own time, and from contemporaneous references, we may safely conclude that few churches in Scotland, during the late fifteenth and the sixteenth centuries, were destitute of similar decorations.


Return to Book Index Page