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A Renaissance Painted Ceiling in Scotland inspires a Masterpiece in Vermont.
Crarthes Castle's Famous Painted Ceiling Reborn By Anne Macpherson


A boy and his father loved to search out and explore the wonderful castles of their homeland in Scotland, but one castle-Carthes Castle-made a lasting impression on young Anthony MacLaurin as he gazed in wonder at the painted ceiling of this once glorious place. Carthes Castle Is maintained by the National Trust for Scotland and its sister not-for-profit in the United States, The National Trust for Scotland Foundation USA.

Anthony kept those images in his mind for years and dreamt that one day he just might have a painted ceiling to call his own.  In late 2011 his dream began to become a reality. 

While in local book store, The Northshire Book Store in Manchester, Vermont, Anthony asked the clerk if there were any painters who could take on such a massive project for the MacLaurin’s newly constructed dining room.  In May of 2012, Anthony and his wife Anne took a trip to Londonderry and the studio of the well-known muralist Kimberley Ray. Here began a journey through time and a year’s worth of research to create the Painted Ceiling at Balquider, MacLaurin’s home in Manchester, Vermont.

Anthony and  Anne are both Scottish, having lived in Scotland for over forty years and once settled in Manchester, Vermont, dearly wanted a “bit of Scottishness” to grace their home.  After researching the height of the Scottish Renaissance, Kim went to work consulting with artists in Scotland to unearth what kind of paint was used and stories the murals told. “The eight panels tell the story of an historic time in Scotland. The Renaissance impacted Scotland in a marvelous way,” say Kim. Suddenly freed from the strict ecclesiastical restrictions of the Catholic Church creativity burst forth, from writing to song and poetry and even in fashion. The sky was the limit and ceilings were not left out as a place for creative work.” Explains Kim.

“While I researched many castles, it was Anthony’s dream to recreate the ceiling at Crathes Castle that he loved so much. Once the commission was under way, Kim spend the next 12 months creating a true masterpiece. “The mural was designed for the hexagonal ceiling of the MacLaurin’s dining room. The mural is composed of 8 triangular panels. These tell the story of Renaissance Scotland, the magic, the mystery. The story of Court life under James the VI later to become James I of England.” Says Ray.

The paint that Kim used emulated the color palette and effect of the paint that was used during that period.  Called Flase, the paint delivers a permanent high density pigment. It dries with intense color that has a completely matte finish.

Kim started to sketch out each trapezoidal panels while keeping true to the authenticity of the imagery and time period. Each panel had to relate to the entire composition and the images had to be balanced from panel to panel.



Artist paining in the Dining room

When Anne Macpherson suggested that the mural be “blessed” during the Unveiling & Celebration at the MPA Gallery in Londonderry Vermont, I thought that was such a special Idea! Since I began painting murals, there have been many mural celebrations, dedications and parties but I have never had a mural blessed...
The “8 Decorative Ceiling Panels” were inspired by the Painted Ceilings of the Scottish Renaissance” It was truly a time to reflect on the process, give reverence to the Scottish culture, heritage & history, and to celebrate the Mural completion and its meaning for generations to come… Thank you to Anthony & Anne for giving me the opportunity to do what I love best. It has been an amazing experience. It has been the pinnacle Mural of my painting career… This "Painted Ceiling" has truly been a gift & Blessing to everyone. -Kimberley Ray


“The mural is composed of the decorative arts of the period, many taken from Flemish pattern books with popular images of the time, these are speaking pictures. The Ceiling details historic Scottish themes and image. Each panel has a theme or story. The figures represented on the panels are nature, the seasons, the five senses, the Cardinal Virtues-Faith, Hope, Temperance and the Muses. The panels also feature the Eight Worthies: The Pagan Heroes of Hector, Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar. The Jewish Worthies of Joshua, David and Judas Maccabeus. The last set of Worthies are the great Christian kings, King Arthur, Charlemagne and Godfrey of Boullon. These men were considered the pure representation all that was considered noble in life and they were the models of Knighthood and Chivalry.

Another panel feature Robert the Bruce, the Rampant Lion of Scotland and a great stag-the ancient Celtic symbol of power and male potency.   Other panels display grotesques-strange animal-human shapes, fruits, flowers, vegetables, fantastic creatures from mermaids and sulkies to religious themes such as the Virgin Mary, Christ, the Church and animals with great meaning dating back to the druid world.

Of Particular note is one of the panels personalized with Anthony’s family crest and initials above the crest.  Other panels have Gaelic sayings such as Robert Burns Grace, Go mbeidh sochain ar domhain- May peace Prevail on Earth, Yer bums oot the windae-You are speaking rubbish and Lang may yer lum reek-May you live a long life.

One panel has a touch of whimsy, a monkey who sees no evil and a little grotesque in the opposite corner that might cause one to take a sudden breath.

Kim Ray’s yearlong project now lives proudly in the dining room. Eight panels separated by beautifully decorated beams are topped by the Tudor Rose, a nod to the couple’s English heritage as well.

The Painted Ceiling at Balquhidder is a testament to one man’s dream, an artist’s fantastic talent and an idea who time has come.

Kimberly Ray has been a decorative painter specializing in custom fine art work and murals since 2001.  She has done commissioned works throughout United States and beyond. For more information about Kim go to www.kimraymurals.com

A History of the Painted Ceiling of Balquidder (pdf)
Written by Anne Macpherson


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