The context and material techniques of royal portrait production within Jacobean Scotland: The Courts of James V and James VI

Woodward-Reed, Hannah Elizabeth (2018) The context and material techniques of royal portrait production within Jacobean Scotland: The Courts of James V and James VI. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

Due to Embargo and/or Third Party Copyright restrictions, this thesis is not available in this service.
Printed Thesis Information:


This inter-disciplinary thesis addresses the authenticity and social context of surviving portraits of Scottish monarchs between 1530 and c.1590, bringing the study of the Scottish portraits closer to the standard undertaken upon surviving English works. This research focuses upon key questions to begin to reveal the nature of commission and execution of sixteenth-century portraits in Scotland, focusing upon a pair of double portraits from Blair Castle, Pitlochery, Perthshire. The two paintings will form the key case-studies for this research, and the central question to the thesis is whether they are authentic, sixteenth-century Scottish-made images. The thesis will address questions such as: How do they fit into the contemporaneous culture of court portraiture production in Northern Europe and across the border in England? Does the physical evidence support the notion of Netherlandish influence? Surviving documentary evidence of the painterly aspects of the courts of King James V and his grandson King James VI is presented, and the results of interdisciplinary technical analysis used to explore whether the materials and techniques of the Blair portraits and their surviving counterparts demonstrate enough Netherlandish influence to present the existence of a Scoto-Netherlandish school of painting.

The National Portrait Gallery’s research project Making Art in Tudor Britain (2007-2014) 2010 conference Tudor and Jacobean Painting: Production, Influences and Patronage raised the issue of the need for a parallel project for Scotland, tracing the highly-developed use of portraiture by the later Stewart dynasty to its fifteenth-century Scottish beginnings. This thesis argues that far from being culturally backwards in terms of portraiture, the Scottish court employed fashionable Netherlandish techniques from an early date, with a strong understanding of the impact of the arts dating from the earliest Stewarts.

Most importantly, this research is the first to undertake a full technical examination of the Blair Castle portraits, placing these works within a comprehensive material context. Such examination of the visual arts commissioned at this time can only further our understanding of the wider context of production in Scotland at this time. Additionally, understanding the nature of the commission of royal portraits by those in noble families makes clearer the use of the visual arts to enhance careers and reputation, as well as social identity.

In focusing the discussion purely upon Scottish portraits in native collections, this research unites works which have not been comprehensively studied as a whole. The study of the sixteenth-century Scottish court has advanced considerably in recent years, but without an in-depth examination of the artworks produced as visual representation of these courts, a complete understanding cannot be achieved. This thesis demonstrates that much of the production of royal portraits was based upon the copying of copies. It is thus not the aesthetic quality which should be the focus, but the circumstances of their existence and material composition which is most revealing about the place Scotland holds within the study of early modern European art.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Due to copyright restrictions the full text of this thesis cannot be made available online. Access to the printed version is available once any embargo periods have expired.
Keywords: Scotland, early modern, portrait, techniques, materials, history, Stewarts, James V, James VI.
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
N Fine Arts > ND Painting
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Culture and Creative Arts > History of Art
Funder's Name: Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
Supervisor's Name: Rush, Dr. Sally and Richter, Dr. Mark
Date of Award: 2018
Embargo Date: 17 April 2022
Depositing User: Dr. Hannah Woodward-Reed
Unique ID: glathesis:2018-30910
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 25 Oct 2018 15:35
Last Modified: 19 Apr 2021 05:37

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