Thursday, January 25, 2018

Finally!!! Edinburgh and the Scottish National Portrait Gallery!

But to see her was to love her,
Love but her, and love forever.
~Robert Burns



For many many reasons I've been away from Cobalt Violet for over 6 months! In part, it was getting ready for my adventure and then I was away. Then I was away AGAIN, after which I had a houseguest (you'll have to wait on that one) and then I was away AGAIN! 

On top of that, apparently my 10 year old Mac desktop doesn't want to load 10,000 photos from my iPhone! I haven't even tried my to load the huge files from my big canon digital camera. I'm afraid my computer will crash and I'll loose everything. Time for a new(ish?) computer I'm afraid.

Anyway, enough first world problem complaints and on to more fun things. My big wonderful adventure! And yes, it was everything I hoped for. Scotland was magical and it was as beautiful as I'd hoped with the added bonus that the people were unbelievably kind, funny and just flat out wonderful!

First stop ... Edinburgh. I'd been there very briefly back when I was about 21 and remembered thinking that it was a beautiful city. This time I would be meeting my parents there and I was excited to spend four whole nights! Actually, it turns out that there is so much to do that our schedule was a little over booked! 

Above, my little airplane sketch. OH! And I did the little watercolor map up on top of this post on my way "across the pond." The little "route" I drew on map, I did along the way as we continued on our journey. Good thing because there were some adjustments and changes in our itinerary.

When I arrived, I was looking for a tram but found a bus so I hopped on board. Then I became completely disoriented and quickly made friends with a Polish lady (a resident) and several Scots who were kindly explaining how I needed to get to my AirBnb in the Grassmarket area. By the time I arrived at my stop, I had a young woman and older Scotsman getting off at the same stop. The latter was going a few blocks out of his way (now in the rain) to point me in the right direction.

I dragged my rather large, bright red hard shell suitcase, in the drizzle, down a street, under a bridge, (covering myself with my shawl) to a street that ran right under Edinburgh Castle.

Below, my first glimpse of the Edinburgh Castle! I was so excited I didn't care about the drizzle, or that I was quickly beginning to resemble a drown rat! Here I was! I made it!

And suddenly, there I was in the little Grassmarket Neighborhood ... spectacular view of the castle and all! Where you see the van on the left (below) was the shop where I immediately bought myself an umbrella. Plaid, of course! 

I soon realized that the drizzle and wet climate would give me a whole new hairdo, with the volume and waves I'd always wanted. Who knew?

My travel journal ... sketching the castle with a ball point pen.

I arrived about an hour before I was supposed to meet with lady from our AirBnb, but when I finally got in I was tired but thrilled.


The view out our window looked up at the castle! I knew this from the online photos but now I was there and it was beautiful! To be able to sit on the little fold out sofa and see it! Right there! 

It felt like this old castle was somehow watching over me while holding its endless stories, secrets and tales ...

I rested for about an hour, under the ever watchful castle. Knowing that my parents wouldn't be there for a few hours ... I headed up to Victoria Street and toward the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.

It doesn't get much more charming than Victoria Street. It's said that Daigon Alley, in Harry Potter, was inspired by this street!

I wanted to go in the shops but I was laser focused. Well, sort of. I had to stop to take photos. 

Below, looking down on Victoria Street, where later that night I'd have my first Scotch of the trip!

I headed up and over the hill. I wanted to stop on the Royal Mile but I kept going ...

Below, I'm looking North from the hill just below the Castle. In the center you can see the monument to Sir Walter Scott. Good thing I'd been hiking a lot to get ready for my little excursion on the Isle of Skye. LOTS of hills and stairs in Edinburgh! On my way back up I lost count on one set of stairs at 200.

Scottish National Portrait Gallery

As you can see, the Great Hall of the Portrait Gallery is spectacularly beautiful! I was so bummed my parents were not there with me! I had no idea how stunning it was.

Below, a statue of Robert Burns.

The mural below is of the marriage procession of James IV and Margaret Tudor in 1503 in Edinburgh, by nineteenth century artist William Hole.

Below a mural of Saint Margaret landing at Queen's Ferry in 1068 also by William Hole.

After more than a year of researching Scotland, watching documentaries, listening to books on tape, watching somewhat inaccurate biopics and drinking Scotch, my heart raced as I began to walk among these people. It's as if there spirits were alive in this place, in their portraits, telling their story and the story of Scotland. It was intense and I could feel my heart beat a bit faster with the excitement of finally being there ...

Jacobite Portraits

Mary, Queen of Scots
artist unknown
oil on canvas, about 1610-1615

"This image of Mary Queen of Scots dates from more than twenty years after her execution in 1587. The artist has based Mary's features on a miniature painted during her imprisonment in England."

Mary Queen of Scots
Artist Unknown, after 
François Clouet
oil on panel, probably 19th century

The original of the above portrait was just before leaving France and heading back to Scotland to take her place as Mary I of Scotland. Her mom had been the regent while Mary was away in France.

James V (1512-1542)
Father of Mary Queen of Scots, Reigned 1513-1542
Artist Unknown
oil on panel, about 1579

Mary of Guise 
(1515-1560 Mother of Mary, Queeen of Scots)
by Corneille de Lyon
oil on panel, painted about 1537

I'd seen the above portraits in books and in documentaries, but I had no idea that the last two were so small! The one of Mary of Guise was maybe a 5 x 7.  Loved the frame with velvet. Anyway, such an interesting history with these ladies. 

Queen Anne, when Princess of Denmark
Willem Wissing and Jan van der Vaart
oil on canvas, about 1685

Poor Anne had 18 children and non survived into adulthood, thus she was the last member of House of Stewart to reign. Her cousin George I, a protestant, became the first Hanoverian monarch of Britain.

Prince James Francis Edward Stewart, 1688-1766
Son of James VII and II
by Francois de Troy
Oil on canvas, 1701

In 1701, James VII and II died and Prince James was recognised as King of England, Scotland and Ireland by Louis XIV, the pope and several other Catholic rulers. But, of course, as a Catholic, he would never rule. This was thought to have been painted to commemorate is 13th birthday and his adorable looks were apparently a "boon to the Jacobite cause."

 Prince Charles Edward Stewart, 1720-1788
"Bonnie Prince Charlie" 
Eldest son of Prince James Frances Edward Stewart
artist unknown, after Jean-Etienne Liotard (1702-1789)
Oil on canvas, 1737

"Prince Charles Edward Stuart was the son of the 'Old Pretender', Prince James Francis Edward, and the grandson of King James VII and II, who was overthrown in 1688. Popularly known as 'Bonnie Prince Charlie', he embodied the hopes of the exiled Jacobite dynasty. After the defeat of his army by government forces at Culloden in 1746, he escaped to France and remained in exile for the remainder of his life. In this portrait the young prince is wearing the order of the Garter and the Jacobite blue bonnet with a white cockade. The latter represents the white rose, a symbol for Jacobite sympathies, and was worn by the prince’s troops in the absence of a formal uniform."

Flora Macdonald (1722-1790)

 [Fionnghal nighean Raghnaill ’ic Aonghais Òig]

 Jacobite heroine

by Richard Wilson (1713/14-1782)
Oil on canvas, 1747


I love her story! (More on Flora when we get to the post about the Isle of Skye!)

"The famous Jacobite heroine Flora Macdonald lived on South Uist, in the Outer Hebrides. In 1746, on the neighbouring island of Benbecula she met Prince Charles Edward Stuart, the Young Pretender, in flight after the disastrous defeat at Culloden. She helped the Prince escape by boat to Skye, disguising him as her maidservant. She was arrested for her part in assisting him and taken prisoner to London. After her release in 1747 she commissioned this portrait which she gave to the captain of the ship which had brought her south, in thanks for the kindness he had shown her."

Patrick Grant (1713 / 1714 - 1824)
[Pàdraig Grannd an Dubh-bhruaich]
by Colvin Smith (Scottish, 1795-1875)
Oil on canvas, 1822

I knew this painting of Patrick Grant was in the Portrait Gallery and I was looking around in the galleries for it. You see, there are a LOT of Grants back in my family tree. Many Grants fought on the side of the Crown (the Hanoverians) but this Grant was on the side of the Jacobites. (Those that wanted a Stewart king back on the thrown.)

Found it! (I also took my picture with Flora!)

"As a young man, Patrick Grant had fought on the Jacobite side against the Hanoverian army during the 1745 Rising. When, nearly eighty years later, George IV visited Edinburgh in 1822, Grant was introduced to the King as 'His Majesty's oldest enemy'. The King offered Grant and his daughter a state pension, one of his many acts aimed at reconciling England and Scotland and strengthening the new nation of Great Britain. In this sympathetic portrait the sitter, swathed in tartan and wearing a large crucifix, looks considerably younger than his 109 years."

In a stairway ... 

More portraits ... Royal and otherwise,

Princess Elizabeth (1635-1650) and Princess Anne (1637-1640)
Daughters of Charles I
Sir Anthony van Dyck (Flemish 1599-1641)
Oil on canvas, 1637

This was a study for a larger painting. You have to really check the dates on these paintings, because the royalty had (and has!) a tenancy to use the same names over and over! It can get crazy confusing! 

detail of painting below

by Gavin Hamilton (Scottish)
oil on canvas, 1752/53

Queen Victoria, (1819-1901)
by Franz Xaver Winterhalter
oil on canvas, 1840

(Anyone watching Victoria on PBS?? I LOVE it! I know, shocking.)

This next one is so sweet! The glare was a nightmare so I didn't get the best shot but here it is ...

The Lullaby
depicted: Margaret Ferrier, the artist's wife and son
by Sir Joseph Noel Paton (Scottish 1821-1901)
oil on panel, 1861

The couple had 11 children. "The little boy depicted here, Diarmid Noël Paton, grew up to become Professor of Physiology at Glasgow University and a pioneer in the study of nutrition and metabolism."

Eric Robertson with Mary Newbery
by Cecile Walton (Scottish 1891-1956)
oil on canvas, 1912

"Mary Newbery was the daughter of Francis and Jessie Newbery, who both attended Glasgow School of Art. She studied painting and design in Glasgow and Paris and, like her mother, specialised in embroidery and paintings of flowers in watercolour. Newbery was a close friend of Cecile Walton – meeting her husband, the painter Alick Riddell Sturrock, through Walton’s own husband, Eric Robertson. Posing as Newbery's ‘companion’, Robertson is depicted here in a manner which emphasises his androgynous beauty."

I just loved that painting! Both the technique and style, as well as the strangeness of its subject and narrative. What is going on!?

Another portrait I HAD to see before leaving the gallery ...

Robert Burns, (1759-1796)
Alexander Nasmyth (Scottish 1758-1840)
Oil on canvas, 1787

"This half-length portrait of Burns, framed within an oval, has become the most well-known and widely reproduced image of the famous Scottish poet. Nasmyth's painting, commissioned by the publisher William Creech, was to be engraved for a new edition of Burns' poems. He is shown fashionably dressed against a landscape, evoking his rural background in Alloway, Ayrshire. Burns and Nasmyth had become good friends, having been introduced to one another in Edinburgh by a mutual patron, Patrick Miller of Dalswinton. Nasmyth, pleased to have recorded Burns' likeness convincingly, decided to leave the painting in a slightly unfinished state."

As you might have guessed, I LOVED the portrait gallery and if you are heading to Edinburgh I'd highly recumbent it! Apparently, there was a major overhaul of the museum and it reopened in 2011.

This video on youtube gives you an idea of the extent of the renovation but also another good view of the museum. 

All that and the day wasn't over! I walked all the way back to Grassmarket to meet up with my parents. I had the key! After that, we still had fish n' chips to eat, tickets to the "Tattoo" and my first Scotch of the trip! That will have to wait until my next post which, I promise, will not be another 6 months!

Here I am in front of a lovely shop on Victoria Street. It was there that I ended up buying a beautiful red Stewart tartan shawl. I might be a reincarnated Jacobite. Or I just love red. 

Blessings and light!