Portraits of James V of Scotland and the celebration of dynasty

Erma Hermens, Lord Kelvin-Adam Smith, Fellow in Technical Art History, University of Glasgow
Sally Rush, Senior Lecturer, History of Art, University of Glasgow

Making Art in Tudor Britain

Abstract of a paper presented at Tudor and Jacobean Painting: Production, Influences and Patronage
Funded by the British Academy and The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art

There is evidence to suggest that the Stewart kings were keenly aware of the need both to circulate an official likeness and to assemble a gallery of dynastic forebears. Portrait artists were seemingly employed at the Scottish court from the reign of James I. When Mary Queen of Scots was executed at Fotheringhay Castle in February 1587 she left behind an extensive series of dynastic portraits. While we do not know what happened to these, a number of portraits of her parents, James V and Mary of Guise, survive. Questions regarding their authenticity and exact dates, however, prevent them being used as evidence to support the study of the visual and material culture of the Stewart court. We are in the first stages of a collaborative project between the University of Glasgow, the National Galleries of Scotland, the Royal Collection and the National Trust for Scotland, set up to address these key issues. It combines art historical, archival and technical research (including infrared reflectography) with the aim of establishing the chronological sequence of these portraits and which, if any, functioned as the master image. Once a chronology has been established, the interdisciplinary research approach will also inform on the techniques used to transfer and copy an official likeness, and enhance our understanding of the process of adaptation and emulation across an established time period. This paper will present the findings of a pilot study using the double portrait of James V and Mary of Guise now in the collection of the Duke of Atholl at Blair Castle in Perthshire.

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