‘The Monarch of the Glen’ is saved for the Scottish nation
National Gallery of Scotland to raise funds to buy iconic painting from Diageo
The Monarch of the Glen, by Sir Edwin Landseer, is described as a “masterpiece of Victorian art”.
Scotland’s most famous painting has been withdrawn from auction and is to remain on permanent public display in the country in a case which has parallels with the Beit paintings controversy in Ireland. The Monarch of the Glen – a masterpiece of Victorian art – had been on public display for the past 17 years at the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh. The painting, by Sir Edwin Landseer, was on loan from Diageo, the international drinks company whose brands include Guinness. But the company decided to sell the painting and consigned it to a Christie’s auction last November where it was expected to sell for up to £10 million.
However, the company has had a change of heart and has decided instead to “gift half the estimated market value of the painting” to the National Galleries of Scotland (NGS). According to a statement, the NGS “will now embark on a fundraising campaign to secure £4 million to bring the painting into its collection and allow the painting to pass from private to public hands for the first time in its history”. Although not specifically mentioned, the announcement suggests that the agreed value of the painting was £8 million. Sir John Leighton, the director-general of the NGS, praised the “grand gesture by Diageo which offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for this major work to be acquired for the nation” and said “The Monarch of the Glen is an iconic image which is famous across the world. The ideal home for such an important and resonant picture is the Scottish National Gallery where it can be enjoyed and admired by millions of visitors.”
The Monarch of the Glen, dated 1851, depicts a “royal” or twelve-point stag – a reference to the number of tines on his antlers – in a rugged Highlands landscape. The painting was originally commissioned for the House of Lords in London but, when redecoration plans for the building were changed, passed into private ownership and was bought by a private collector for 350 guineas.
In 1916, the painting was acquired by John Dewar & Sons, the Scottish whisky company, and was used in advertising. Dewar’s was taken over by Diageo in 1997.