12/03/2018
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Mary Queen of Scots in captivity - John Calcott Horsley painting to be auctioned in Glasgow

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A painting by London-born artist John Calcott Horsley (1817-1903) which depicts Mary Queen of Scots in captivity is to be auctioned at McTear's Auctioneers, Glasgow, on 14 March as part of their Scottish Pictures sale.

The painting, titled Mary Queen of Scots in Captivity, is lot no. 250 and has an estimate of £35,000-£50,000 (buyer's premium 24%). The painting was exhibited at the Royal Academy London in 1871 and thereafter at the Royal Scottish Academy (1876), and at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in 1987.

Its provenance is given as: William H. Smith, M.P., London by 1876; Hon. W. F. D. Smith by 1904 ; Private collection. Sotheby's Scottish & Sporting Pictures 29 August 2007 lot 2 sold £45,600 (premium) Private collection Edinburgh.

John Calcott Horsley, who is credited with designing the world's first Christmas card (commissioned by Henry Cole), was born in London in 1817 and is best known for his historical scenes. When Mary Queen of Scots in Captivity was first exhibited at the Royal Academy in London in 1871, the following words accompanied it:

''Mary, at twenty-six years of age, was consigned to the charge of the Earl and Countess of Shrewsbury, and remained captive in their custody for nearly sixteen years. There was little love lost between the Countess and her loyal prisoner. The former, familiarly known as Bess of Hardwick, was a woman of strong character and imperious disposition.''

Painting description

Mary is dressed in black at a mullioned window of her bedchamber where she has been held captive for many years. She is feeding doves that have flown to the open window from the world outside that she cannot return to. The contrast of their freedom and her captivity is made more pathetic by the entry into the scene of the cruel-faced Bess of Hardwick who clutches the warrant for Mary's execution which will finally release her from her captivity.

Her young page who has been holding a plate of bread from which she feeds the birds, hangs his head in grief and her hand-maidens are startled by Bess and the Earl of Shrewsbury's approach.The little dog at her feet and the religious triptych add to the symbolism, denoting fidelity and piety whilst the abandoned lute suggests the silence of lost romance.

How to bid

For information on how to make a bid before the sale, during the auction or in person, visit McTear's Auctioneers website.

McTear's Auctioneers, 31 Meiklewood Road, Glasgow G51 4EU; tel: 0141 810 2880; e-mail; website.

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