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
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
Here began a journey through time and a year’s worth of research to
create the Painted Ceiling at Balquider, MacLaurin’s home in
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
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
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.
“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
A History of the Painted
Ceiling of Balquidder (pdf)
Written by Anne Macpherson