http://northernrenaissance.org | ISSN: 1759-3085

Creative Commons License

Published under an Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported Creative Commons License.

You are free to share, copy and transmit this work under the following conditions:

Giovanna Guidicini, Triumphal Entries and Festivals in Early Modern Scotland: Performing Spaces (Brepols, 2020)

Giovanna Guidicini, Triumphal Entries and Festivals in Early Modern Scotland: Performing Spaces (Turnhout: Brepols, 2020), ISBN: 9782503585413, 349 pp. EUR 90.00.

Reviewed by Michael Bath

[1] This account of more than a dozen royal entries into Edinburgh that are recorded in historical documents identifies eight successive ‘performative spaces’ – specific sites within the city where particular types of dramatic performance, artistic display, and ceremonial activity structured each entry. Because these locations repeatedly became the pausing points for particular ceremonies or static displays, they become keys to the wider political, social and commercial relationships between court and city – or between the monarch and his or her subjects – at this period. They also illustrate the wider relationship between politics and the creative and performance arts, and their historical interest thus extends much further than their ephemeral nature might tempt us to assume. For this reason, Dr. Guidicini’s book deserves to be brought to the attention of a wider readership than the scholarly circle of specialists in royal entries in particular, or European festival studies more generally, that have been pursued in recent years.

[2] Guidicini identifies eight locations in the city that structured the progress of such entries: they are successively the West Port, Overbow, Butter Tron, Tolbooth, St Giles Kirk and Market Cross, Salt Tron, and Netherbow – these became the focal points in successive entries, and the way each site functioned on these occasions is studied in successive chapters of the book. That sequence structures its argument, which thus becomes primarily geographical rather than historical. Deploying nevertheless a remarkable body of historical and documentary evidence, much of it fugitive, Dr Guidicini accompanies her readers on a scholarly reconstruction of those ancient royal progresses and their ‘imaginary’ spaces whose civic functions and symbolism become ceremonially revealed or displayed. The eleven entries in the period between 1503 and 1633 included successive monarchs: Margaret Tudor (wife of James IV), Madeleine of Valois and Mary of Guise (James V), Mary Queen of Scots, James VI, Anna of Denmark and Charles I. Those held later for George IV in 1822 and for Victoria and Albert in 1842 were, of course, historical revivals.

[3] These successive focal points begin at the West Port which, as a reinforced gateway, symbolised the opening of the city to its ruler, requiring the reassurance of trust and friendship between city and court which was signalled by an exchange of gifts and the delivery of keys. ‘Performing this ceremony at the city gate’ writes Dr Guidicini, ‘made skilful use of spatial significance to remind the royal guest that the welcome was freely given to a legitimate, well-disposed, and religiously compliant ruler’ (p.92). The fact that in Edinburgh the royal court was located outside the walls – either in the castle on its hill to the west or later at Holyrood to the east – meant that the royal party had to take a roundabout route before beginning its processional entry; from that point onwards, however, the theatrical, historical and ‘imaginary’ representation of civic spaces begins, with tapestries depicting legendary, traditional or classical scenes that transform the streets into symbolically suggestive settings. The rich textiles often used for hangings were matched by the splendid canopies and costumed bearers that accompanied the royal person: in 1590, for instance, Queen Anna’s entry was attended by ‘picturesquely attired moors’ (p.95) – a type of exotic orientalised performers that have been noted as playing a significant role more widely elsewhere in theatrical entertainments of this period. The fact that the next focal point, the Overbow, had formerly also been a gateway, although in an earlier and narrower boundary of the city, gave it a similar significance to the West Port, which its function as commercial tollgate confirmed. Its structure (Scots ‘bow’ means an arched gateway) clearly also established its potential to imitate those antique triumphal arches that became such a characteristic feature of ceremonial entries both here and elsewhere. That classicising impulse is shown to have been influenced by the antiquarian and historicising writings of such authors as Hector Boece, Gavin Douglas, David Lindsay and George Buchanan, in which the nation’s identity was becoming defined. The place of the monarchy in that history was signalled by the inclusion in entries on several occasions of family trees illustrating the monarch’s ancestry.

[4] As it moved down the Royal Mile to the Butter Tron, however, the procession reached a location in the city most appropriate for signalling the relations between monarchs and merchants, or possibly between the nobility and the bourgeoisie. Focus on those relations has suggestive parallels with other European cities, such as London, Paris, Lyon, Bruges, and Antwerp, with which Edinburgh shared trading relations – indeed foreign visitors, such as the Danish chronicler who described Queen Anna’s 1590 entry, make particular mention of the Butter Tron in their accounts, noting its commercial function as the site of the public weighbeam (tron being the Scots word for that civic amenity). Mercantile activities extended right down the High Street from this point to the Salt Tron at the entrance to Canongate, and during the welcome for Mary of Guise in 1538 particular traders were named as responsible for making each of the successive stations on this route ready for the procession, although unfortunately records of the particular activities or displays they put in place have not survived. The periodic rebuilding of facades to buildings down the High Street, however, with timber frontages, stone arcades and ashlar facades being added to domestic dwellings, is likely to have been motivated, at least to some extent, by their situation on the route of such royal processions. Records of preparations for several entries, such as Mary of Guise’s in 1538 or James’s in 1579, include documents which specify the dress codes, textiles and colours to be worn by different guild members on these occasions: they were evidently meant to be suitably attired whilst on parade, not as mere spectators but as participants in a civic performance. Comparisons with similar processions elsewhere in Europe are instructive at this point, and the banning of unwanted spectators, such as convicted criminals and beggars, ensured the presentation of Edinburgh ‘as an established and prosperous ideal mercantile burgh’ (p.172).

[5] In the following Chapter 6 we arrive at a site comprising three core buildings – the Tolbooth, St Giles’s Kirk and the Market Cross – that bring together the issues not only of relations between monarch and merchants but also the relationship of both of these to the wider question of religion. The fact that this has such a fundamental importance for Scottish history suggests why this chapter is in some ways the most interesting part of Dr. Guidicini’s book. As she says:

Urban geography became the battleground for confessional conflict, and the rules of social order and social experience had to be renegotiated. How religious changes would be addressed during triumphal entries through the different roles of sacred spaces is of particular interest in a Scottish context, given the overlaps between Catholic, Presbyterian, and Episcopalian beliefs at this period. In addition, rulers doubling up as heads of the Church of England had to find a new role for themselves in an emerging pan-British confederation. (pp.179-180)

The Tolbooth was home to the law courts, described in 1593 as ‘the supreme hous [sic.] of justice within this land’ and seat of the Convention of Royal Burghs, a forum protecting the interests and privileges of not only of Edinburgh but also of Aberdeen, Dundee and Perth, and with a similar role to English guildhalls, from which their Scottish identity was most notably distinguished architecturally ‘by the retention of forestairs’ (p.180). The positioning of St Giles kirk, adjoining the Tolbooth, suggests why this was the location where ceremonial entries reflected most clearly the contentious intertwining of religious and secular values within the city, and the particular tensions which the recurrent differences and disputes between monarch and citizens over doctrinal issues introduced into these festivities. The extensive alterations to which the church itself was subjected in order to accommodate not only the changing rituals and values of the Reformation but also the different requirements of successive Catholic, Episcopalian and Presbyterian congregations, are shown to have influenced the staging of entries at this point. The Market Cross occupied a central position next to the Tolbooth, signalling the city’s right to hold a market and serving as the platform from which heralds read royal proclamations and acts of parliament. It was also the place in which sentences such as flogging, branding or shaming were publicly executed on criminals. This therefore was the place where royal entries often presented allegorical figures of the Virtues and/or Vices, identified by their traditional attributes. Sometimes they were associated with the figure of Justice, or in 1579 with ‘ane fair wirgin, callit Fortoune’, and this association of Justice and Fortune is shown to have some interesting parallels with the pairing of Virtus and Fortuna on the painted ceiling at Pinkie House on which I myself have written. For Anna’s entry in 1590 the five Virtues delivered their speeches directly to the Queen and again suggested their dependence on the wheel of fortune. These reminders seem most apposite to a Scottish context in which the succession of a female or of a comparatively young and inexperienced monarch was in question. The accession of monarchs who were not only female but also, after the Reformation, Roman Catholic raised further issues for the staging of royal entries which have often been noted by Scottish historians: in 1561 for instance it was at the Butter Tron that Mary was given a Scots translation of the bible and a book of Psalms which were ‘signified … to be emblems of her defending the Reformed Relligion’ as a contemporary historian describes them, and in the years immediately preceding or subsequent to the 1603 Union of the Crowns it was the monarch’s position as head of the Established episcopal Church of England that caused inevitable problems for the conduct of royal entries at this point in the progress. In 1633 Religion was shown, in William Drummond’s description of this Entertainment, as trampling on Superstition and celebrating the primitive independence of the Scottish Church from Rome and ‘its preference for simplicity over the Laudian-papistical, antiquated ceremonies which the King supported’ (p.204). Charles’s attempts to transfer the religious parts of his entry from St Giles to the refurbished royal chapel in Holyroodhouse met with strong resistance from the civic authorities.

[6] The proximity of Tolbooth and St Giles’ Church to the Market Cross introduces a less controversial and more festive note to the Entries at this point however, associated here as elsewhere across Europe with fountains of wine. The first of these to be recorded were in 1503 at a ‘new painted’ cross that was close to ‘a Fontyayne, castynge forth Wyn’, and in 1558 the burgh purchased wine in abundance to ‘run apon the Croce’, employing workmen to make pipes conveying the wine, presumably from its barrels, to the fountain. Dramatic performances in later entries featured the figure of Bacchus serving glasses of wine to the populace, accompanied in 1590 by an actress costumed as Ceres serving nuts, sugared sweets and bunches of grapes, all signifying the state of the city as a place of abundance. The same two classical deities greeted King Charles at the Cross in 1633.

[7] The succeeding Chapter 7 brings us to the Salt Tron, where we learn from William Drummond of Hawthornden’s Entertainment booklet, describing the highly classical ceremonies in 1633 for Charles I’s entry, that the scenography on that occasion displayed a model of Mount Parnassus with Apollo and the Muses. The strongly classical iconography of this particular entry provides the opportunity for Dr. Guidicini to offer a more extended exploration at this point not only of the wider use of classical mythography in these Scottish entries but also its parallels with other entries and courtly ceremonies at home and abroad: these are relevant to nearly all of the locations discussed in previous chapters, and this material lies the heart of the book. The international context is evident in the triumphal arches, whose elaborate decoration with mythography, emblems and mottoes is familiar enough from well-known studies of Dürer’s 1515 triumphal arch for Emperor Maximilian, or from the London entries which greeted Charles in 1604 after the Union of crowns, for which we have Stephen Harrison’s engravings and Ben Jonson’s well-known descriptions. Royal entries shared much of the same iconography with other courtly ceremonies, including tournaments and royal baptisms including, in Scotland, the 1694 baptism of Prince Henry, and this chapter includes a wide-ranging and well informed discussion of these, together with some fascinating discussion and illustrations of other Scottish artistic media that make use of the same classical, allegorical and emblematic iconography, including architectural carvings, painted ceilings, and memory theatres and music. As she says, ‘Considering Scottish triumphal entries in the context of both foreign ceremonies and courtly events can do justice to the complexity and level of refinement of Scottish celebratory culture.’ (p.248)

[8] On reaching their terminus at The Netherbow at the eastern end of the High Street royal entries passed through another arched gateway, demolished in 1764, that historically separated the city from the neighbouring borough of Canongate. As the terminal place for farewells and parting predictions the iconography here, as elsewhere in Europe, focussed on forecasting the ruler’s predestined achievements and capabilities for carrying them out. This predictive mood determined the use of celestial and astrological symbolism at this point, whether of classical tropes such as those associated with ideas of Augustan imperial triumph and renewal, or of biblical iconography based on Old Testament prophecy and the Book of Revelation. These served to confirm the anticipated outcome of the moral and political counselling that the preceding ceremonies had advocated, and the astrological content of several of the displays at this location shadowed the astronomical findings of Tycho Brahe or of Thomas Seget. The book ends with accounts of the few extramural occasions when either Leith in 1590 or Holyrood Palace, where the University (which was itself located on the South Bridge outside the accepted route for royal Entries), staged welcoming ceremonies for the monarch. Finally the later entries staged for George IV in 1822 and Queen Victoria in 1842 are shown to reflect both the many geographical and historical changes which had by then transformed both their settings and their focus, whatever antiquarian motives may have prompted such revivals.

[9] Involving all the arts – painting, tapestries, drama, poetry, tableaux vivants, emblematics, and music – this is a meticulously researched and copiously documented study which not only brings together and amplifies the preceding work in its field but places it in a context which clarifies its wider cultural significance in an essentially European context. Required reading for all future students of Renaissance festivals or the Scottish court in particular, its interest extends much more widely than the urban history of Edinburgh or the narrow confines of the processional route to which royal entries confined themselves within the city, to embrace significant areas of Scotland’s political, religious, musical, dramatic and artist history at this period in a fully European Renaissance context.

University of Strathclyde, Emeritus; University of Glasgow, January 2021

Philostratus Comes To Scotland: A New Source for the Pictures at Pinkie

Philostratus Comes To Scotland: A New Source for the Pictures at Pinkie.

Michael Bath

[1] The inscription which Alexander Seton, first Earl of Dunfermline, placed over the gate to his garden at Pinkie House, Musselburgh (Fig. 1) describes his new building as a ‘villa’ (villam) or ‘suburban dwelling’ (suburbana aedificia) which was designed to celebrate all kinds of culture and urbanity (urbanitatis omnis humanitatisque). This is only one of the signs that the house, erected shortly after the union of the crowns on the site of the last battle ever to be fought between the Scots and the English – the battle of Pinkie Cleugh in 1547 – was designed as a neoclassical building to celebrate the return of the arts of classical antiquity to the newly united kingdoms of Scotland and England. The inscription certainly alludes to a famous letter in which Pliny the Younger celebrates his house out-of-town (suburbanum), to which he escapes from the city and which is designed to carry down to posterity his own tastes and values (Pliny, Epistulae I.3, see Bath 2003: 100).[1] 

Fig. 1 Inscribed panel commemorating Alexander Seton’s reasons for building his ‘villa suburbana’ at Pinkie in 1613. Photo author.

Fig. 1 Inscribed panel commemorating Alexander Seton’s reasons for building his ‘villa suburbana’ at Pinkie in 1613. Photo author.

Pliny’s letter occupies a significant place among the classical sources that influenced the development of the country house in early modern Britain. ‘There is nothing here to do with warfare,’ Seton’s inscription insists at Pinkie, ‘not even a ditch to repel enemies, but a fountain of pure water, lawns, pools and other things that may add to their pleasures in order to welcome guests with kindness and treat them with benevolence.’[2] The pretensions of the building to be viewed as some kind of renovatio of the buildings of classical antiquity extend to its remarkable neo-Stoic long gallery. This, as I have argued elsewhere, asks to be regarded in its trompel’oeil fictive arcading and its emblematic picturae as a recreation of the ancient painted gallery or stoa poikile in Athens from which Stoicism took its name (Bath 2003: 96-99). (Fig. 2) Those pretensions are, I believe, confirmed and strengthened by a newly discovered source for one of the emblems which fill this painted gallery at Pinkie.

Fig. 2 Pinkie House, Musselburgh, painted long gallery. Crown Copyright: RCAHMS

Fig. 2 Pinkie House, Musselburgh, painted long gallery. Crown Copyright: RCAHMS

[2] Of the 30 emblems painted on the gallery ceiling eight are copied from the Emblemata Horatiana (Antwerp 1607) of Otto van Veen (‘Vaenius’), and three copy examples from the Emblemata (Frankfurt 1596) of Denis Lebey de Batilly (Bath 2003: 79-103). Several of the others use, or adapt, images which go back to various continental sources, but among the emblems in this gallery which have not so far been sourced is one with the motto Nympharumque leves cum satyris me secernunt populo (The light-footed nymphs with satyrs distinguish me from other people), which quotes Horace, Od. 1.1.32. (Fig. 3) The picture for this emblem shows a group of nymphs, with a satyr, dancing round a circular building resembling a classical temple along with other figures and spectators, and on the steps in front of the doorway lies a sleeping baby in a cradle of branches. The motto below the picture also quotes Horace, Od. 4.8.28, and refers to the immortal memory which poets confer on praiseworthy people, Dignum laude virum musa vetata mori (‘The muse will not allow the praiseworthy man to die’). It is not at all easy to make sense of this picture, particularly the small detail of the baby in its cradle, in relation to the two mottoes. However the newly discovered source for this emblem, which can now be identified as copying an engraved illustration to Blaise de Vigenère’s French translation of the Imagines of Philostratus (Philostratus 1614, sig. 378),[3] not only clarifies just what is being represented in the emblem and what it means, but also confirms, I believe, the status of this building and its decoration as a deliberate attempt by the Scottish Chancellor  to recreate in early-modern Scotland a building which would reconstitute the arts of antiquity. [4] (Fig. 4) My reasons for making this claim have everything to do with the reputation of Philostratus’s celebrated descriptions of the paintings he claims to be observing on the walls of a house in second- or third-century Naples as models of literary ekphrasis.

Fig. 3 Nympharumque leves cum satyris me secernunt populo (The light-footed nymphs  with satyrs distinguish me from other people) emblem in long gallery, Pinkie House. Photo  Ann Buchanan.

Fig. 3 Nympharumque leves cum satyris me secernunt populo (The light-footed nymphs with satyrs distinguish me from other people) emblem in long gallery, Pinkie House. Photo: Ann Buchanan

Fig. 4 ‘Pindare’ as illustrated in Philostratus, Les Images, translated by Blaise de Vigenère,  Paris 1614, repr. 1637: 378. Photo Bayerische Staatsbibliothek.

Fig. 4 ‘Pindare’ as illustrated in Philostratus, Les Images, translated by Blaise de Vigenère, Paris 1614, repr. 1637: 378. Photo Bayerische Staatsbibliothek.

[3] What the Nympharumque leves… emblem actually shows us is a picture which Philostratus entitles ‘Pindar’, depicting  what ancient writers tell us about the birth of the poet who was predicted by the gods to become the greatest of lyric poets. His father, they tell us, placed the future poet on a cradle of laurel and myrtle branches in his doorway, where the bees came from their hives and laid honey on his lips so that he would be inspired with harmony and music. At the same time, Philostratus tells us, Pan and a group of nymphs danced round him, overlooked by the mother of the Gods, earth goddess Rhea, whose marble statue stands in the doorway. The painting at Pinkie copies an engraving from the first edition of Philostratus ever to have been illustrated. Published in Paris in 1614, the translation into French was by Blaise de Vigenère with Vigenère’s own commentary. First printed in Paris in 1578, unillustrated (Adams, Rawles and Saunders, F.478), it was not until 1614 that Vigenère’s Images ou Tableaux de Platte Peinture des Deux Philostrates appeared with illustrations by a Parisian engraver called Jaspar Isaac.[5] (Fig. 5) De Vigenère (1523–1596) was a French diplomat and author of over twenty books, of which his Traicté des Chiffres on cryptography has attracted modern interest since it is thought to have invented the first intelligence cipher of its type not to be easily breakable. His role as French diplomat and man of letters may be what drew him to the attention of Alexander Seton. Seton had pursued legal studies in France in the 1570s following his early education by the Jesuits in Rome. In 1577, aged 22 and having completed his education abroad, he returned to Scotland to pursue a distinguished legal career, elected Lord President of the Court of Session in 1588, Chancellor of Scotland in 1604 and Earl of Dunfermline in 1605. In 1583, and again in 1584, he had accompanied his father, George Seton, on a royal embassy to Paris to attempt to persuade Henri III to renew the ‘auld alliance’ (Maitland 1829: 63; Seton 1939: 296). Although the engravings that illustrate de Vigenère’s Images ou Tableaux are nearly all signed by Isaac, some of the others were designed by Antoine Caron, court painter to Catherine de Medici and Henry II of France. Caron was responsible for organizing the French court pageants and his drawings of festivities at the court of Charles IX are well known as likely sources for the Valois Tapestries (Yates 1959).[6] When we look at Isaac’s picture of the Birth of Pindar, I think we might easily imagine that what it represents is the type of allegorical pageantry represented by the French ballet de cour in court festivals of the later sixteenth century: we see nymphs and satyrs dancing to the music of onstage performers who are part of the scene, and in the bottom right-hand corner there is even a group of spectators, one of whom is turning as if to invite us to join in the spectacle.

Fig. 5Title page of Blaise de Vigenère’s translation of Philostratus, in the Paris 1637 edition, which is a page-for-page reprint of 1614/15 with the same title page. Photo Bayerische Staatsbibliothek.

Fig. 5 Title page of Blaise de Vigenère’s translation of Philostratus, in the Paris 1637 edition, which is a page-for-page reprint of 1614/15 with the same title page. Photo Bayerische Staatsbibliothek.

[4] There was one further collaborator in the production of this particular rendition of the Imagines, for beneath each engraving is a set of verses. Those accompanying the Birth of Pindar take the form of a dialogue – a question-and-answer session in which key details in the picture are explained.

D[emande].       Que peuvent server des abeilles
                               A la naissance d’un enfant ? 
R[éponse].         Nous en predisons les merveilles,
                               Et qu’il doit estre triomphant.

[Question: What purpose can bees serve in the birth of a child? Answer: We predict wonders by them, and that he must be a winner.]

These verses were written especially for the 1614 edition by a poet called Artus Thomas, Sieur d’Embry, who is named on the title page, and their interest from our point of view is that they give each of the pages containing these new illustrations a format which closely resembles that of the sixteenth-century emblem books, with the capitalised title above the engraving occupying the space normally filled by an emblem motto, and the verses below having much the same explanatory and moralising function as an emblematic epigram or subscriptio. It must have been the emblematic format which recommended this edition of Blaise de Vigenère’s Philostratus to Alexander Seton as a suitable source to fill a vacant space in the trompe l’oeil emblem panels that fill his ceiling. Philostratus’s Imagines are not generically the same as emblems, but one can easily see why this format might have suggested to Seton their suitability for his purposes, indeed Mario Praz includes this edition of Philostratus in the ‘Bibliography of Emblem Books’ that concludes his Studies in Seventeenth-Century Imagery, although, as he says, ‘the figures are not accompanied with mottoes, they are illustrated by verses which point their moral applications’(1964: 453). Seton was therefore not the last person to identify Blaise de Vigenère’s illustrated edition of Philostratus as some kind of emblem book. De Vigenère’s commentary on the Pindar painting makes no mention of Horace’s Odes, and Seton must presumably himself have chosen these to supply the missing mottoes, making this panel conform with the other emblems from different emblem books that he chose for his painted ceiling, all of which have two mottoes for each picture.[7] Both of these mottoes confirm Philostratus’s moral by celebrating the status and immortality of poetry, and Horace’s reference to ‘Nymphs and satyrs’ in Odes 1.1.32 must have seemed particularly appropriate to this picture of Pan and his Nymphs cavorting round the nascent poet.

[5] It is only rarely that we find evidence of who owned the actual books or engravings used as sources for works of art at this period, but a highly important and suggestive inventory of some of Seton’s books has recently come to light which confirms Seton’s ownership of a copy of de Vigenère’s Philostratus. Compiled in 1625, the ‘Inventair of som of the Earril of Dunfermline his buiks in Pinkie’ has survived amongst the Crawford papers in the National Library of Scotland.[8] Among books on such subjects as theology, mathematics, astronomy, chronography, perspective, and a truly remarkable number of books on art and architecture (including copies of Serlio, Palladio, and Vitruvius), the Inventory records not only a copy of ‘Philostrati opera’, which was probably the original Greek text, but also what the Inventory lists as ‘Les tableaux de plate peinture de Philostrate par viginere folio’. This is not, moreover, the only work by Blaise de Viginère that Seton owned, for the list also includes his book on secret cyphers (‘Traites de ciphres de viginere 4°’), his commentaries on  Caesar’s  Gallic Wars (‘Commentaires de Caesar par vignere 4o’), and Vigenère’s translation of Onosander’s Greek treatise on military strategy (‘Onosander par viginere 4°’). Seton evidently had a strong interest in the writings of this French humanist and diplomat and we may well wonder whether the two men had ever met. In view of Seton’s manifest interest in neo-Stoicism, it is also interesting to note that the books he kept at Pinkie in the seventeenth century included the works of Justus Lipsius (‘Opera omnia Lypsii’).

[6] In the absence of any surviving ancient paintings, the ekphrastic descriptions of them by ancient authors assumed a new importance as essentially the only available source for modern attempts to recreate or imitate them. As Jean Hagstrum reminds us, ‘Of the work of the great painters of antiquity – Polygnotus, Zeuxis, Parrhasius, Apelles – not a single undisputed example has survived’ (Hagstrum 1958: 17). It was only the fifteenth-century rediscovery of Nero’s Golden House in Rome that revealed the first examples of authentic antique painting ever to have come to light, and the speed with which these were imitated by Raphael and his followers, as the new fashion for grottesco painting spread across Europe, is testament to the excitement and importance of this discovery.[9] But grottesco is a purely decorative style of painting, which cannot realise many of the high ideals of illusionism, commemoration or idealisation which classical writers found in the great painters. And for this reason – even after the discovery of Nero’s fantastic murals – the literary models of ekphrastic description retained their importance in painting which had any higher aspirations.  Ekphrasis was primarily a rhetorical rather than an artistic or aesthetic principle, however, held up for critical admiration wherever it was encountered in the writing of classical authors, whose examples of rhetorical enargeia were imitated or emulated as a regular classroom exercise in the schoolroom – indeed in his proem to the Imagines Philostratus explains that it was only when he was challenged to talk about the paintings in a house he was visiting by a group of local youths that he agreed to produce his ekphraseis: these were showpiece exercises in epideictic rhetoric, offered above all as ‘a vehicle to reveal the author’s credentials, his detailed knowledge of Greek myth and literature and the ingenuity with which he can weave these into his account of a Neapolitan picture gallery’ (Newby 2009: 323). If we are right to define ekphrasis as ‘a rhetorical description of a work of art’ (Hagstrum 1958: 18, citing Oxford Classical Dictionary) then the attempts of modern artists to create, or recreate, the pictures which were suggested by such descriptions are what, I suggest, might better be called ‘realised  ekphrasis’ since ekphrasis is, strictly, the verbal description of a painting whereas ‘realised ekphrasis’ is the visual realisation of such verbal descriptions. Such realisations are likely to be characteristic of Renaissance artists if only because they stand as attempts to recreate the art of the ancient world. It is because Alexander Seton’s house at Pinkie has so many other features that ask to be read as a deliberate renovatio of the arts of antiquity that his motives for including one of Philostratus’s Imagines in his Long Gallery therefore has to be seen as a deliberate attempt to recreate an authentic example of ancient painting in early-modern Scotland. The tendency of a now somewhat superannuated school of architectural historians to restrict the ‘neoclassical’ label to strictly neo-Palladian models should not therefore deter us from recognising these more diverse antiquarian influences on Scottish architecture of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries as clear enough indicators of a northern renaissance.[10] The fact that Alexander Seton’s octagonal trompel’oeil cupola in the long gallery at Pinkie House also copies an illustration from one of the most advanced pattern books of the early seventeenth century on the mathematics and theory of perspective is surely further evidence of its Renaissance pretensions.[11]

Fig. 6 Titian, The Andrians, 1522-1524, Madrid: Prado.

Fig. 6 Titian, The Andrians, 1522-1524, Madrid: Prado.

Fig. 7 ‘Les Andriens’ as illustrated in Philostratus, Les Images, translated by Blaise de  Vigenère, Paris 1614, repr. 1637: 205. Photo Bayerische Staatsbibliothek.

Fig. 7 ‘Les Andriens’ as illustrated in Philostratus, Les Images, translated by Blaise de Vigenère, Paris 1614, repr. 1637: 205. Photo Bayerische Staatsbibliothek.

[7] In the light of this discovery, it is natural to ask where else the Imagines of Philostratus have been identified as the source, or inspiration, behind other examples of what I am calling ‘realised ekphrasis’ in Renaissance painting. Applications of Philostratus in the Renaissance and Baroque start with Titian, who painted two canvases, The Worship of Venus, and The Andrians for Alfonso, Duke of Ferrara between 1518 and 1525 (Goff 1997, n.4). The Worship of Venus (Madrid, Prado) has long been recognised as a realisation of Philostratus’s description of a painting showing cupids playing in an orchard, where they chase a hare in front of a grotto dedicated to Venus (Goff, n.4). The Andrians (also in the Prado) depicts a drunken orgy which betrays in several of its details the influence of Philostratus’s description of an ancient painting showing the arrival of Bacchus, god of wine, on the isle of Andros (Murates 1973; Wickhoff 1902).[12] (Fig. 6) Classical mythology tells of the wanderings of Dionysus, alias Bacchus, over the various territories in which the cultivation of the vine became established, amongst which are the Andrians who live beside a stream of wine flowing out of the ground down to the sea past revelling Satyrs, Bacchantes and Seleni. (Fig.7) Titian based both paintings on Philostratus’s descriptions, and Poussin made his early pictures in emulation of Titian, although his version of The Andrians in the Louvre has been described as a subject ‘so obscure that it could only have been lifted from the mysterious ecphrasis in book I of Imagines’ (Bann 2009: 344). (Fig.8) Rubens also made a copy of the Andrians during the time when he was in Madrid, involved in negotiations for a truce between England and Spain which were cut short by the assassination of the Duke of Buckingham in 1628, and Rubens filled in his time making portraits and copying the Titians (Bertos 1976).

Fig. 8 Poussin, Bacchanal: the Andrians, 1630, Paris: Louvre.

Fig. 8 Poussin, Bacchanal: the Andrians, 1630, Paris: Louvre.

[8] Claims for Philostratus’s influence on particular paintings before the 1614 publication of de Vigenère’s illustrations have, necessarily, to rely on careful demonstration of the resemblance between details of the painting and Philostratus’s verbal descriptions. Hence Stephen Bann’s somewhat tendentious claims for Philostratus’s influence on the Narcissus of Caravaggio (Fig. 9) depend on a closely argued analysis of such details as the handling of his hair: ‘Caravaggio’s Narcissus,’ argues Bann, ‘betrays, or rather advertises, its adhesion to the text of Philostratus … principally by the uncanny precision with which it picks up the classical author’s concluding description of the young huntsman’s hair arrangement’ (Bann 2009: 347). (Fig.10) A painting of ca. 1640 by Jacob Jordaens in The Hague, Mauritshuis,

Fig. 9 Caravaggio, Narcissus, c.1597-1599

Fig. 9 Caravaggio, Narcissus, c.1597-1599,
Rome: Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica.

Fig. 10 ‘Narcisse’ as illustrated in Philostratus,

Fig. 10 ‘Narcisse’ as illustrated in Philostratus, Les Images, translated by Blaise de Vigenère, Paris 1614, repr. 1637: 192. Photo Bayerische Staatsbibliothek.

which has long been misidentified under the title Marsyas Ill-Treated by the Muses (Fig. 11) has recently been shown to be a realisation of Philostratus’s Pan and has therefore been reinterpreted as Pan Punished by the Nymphs. (Fig. 12) Jordaens could not read Latin and is therefore likely to have used De Vigenère’s translation, but if this was in one of the illustrated editions he simply ignored Isaac’s engraving, since as Edith Wyss notes, ‘Beyond the general type of pastoral landscape, the engraving and the painting have little in common. Jordaens must have based his interpretation on the text, not on the illustration’ (Wyss 2010: 5). The Pinkie ceiling thus appears to be an extremely rare, if not unique, example of painting which copies the de Vigenère illustrations rather than merely following Philotratus’s descriptions: this surely gives it an exceptional importance.

Fig. 11Jacob Jordaens, Pan Punished by the Nymphs, The Hague, Mauritshuis.

Fig. 11 Jacob Jordaens, Pan Punished by the Nymphs,
The Hague, Mauritshuis.

Fig. 12‘Pan’ as illustrated in Philostratus, Les Images, translated by Blaise de Vigenère, Paris 1614, repr. 1637: 369. Photo Bayerische Staatsbibliothek.

Fig. 12 ‘Pan’ as illustrated in Philostratus, Les Images, translated by Blaise de Vigenère, Paris 1614, repr. 1637: 369. Photo Bayerische Staatsbibliothek.

[9] The anonymous painter who executed the designs for Alexander Seton’s long gallery in the early seventeenth century, however, was certainly no Titian, no Poussin, no Rubens. But the fact that Scotland had no school of painters of a quality that might stand comparison with such European masters does not mean that Scottish patrons such as Alexander Seton, who had travelled on the continent, did not bring to the decoration of their buildings many of the same ideals and values which motivated Renaissance and Baroque painting elsewhere in Europe, particularly when such painting depended as much on rhetorical or wider humanist values as it did on purely aesthetic ones. Seton’s use of Philostratus at Pinkie strengthens the somewhat tentative case I make in the closing pages of my book Renaissance Decorative Painting in Scotland (2003) for some of the paintings elsewhere in Scotland at this period as ekphrastic. The Siege of Troy (Fig. 13) and the Calydonian Boar Hunt (Fig. 14) at Cullen House, Banffshire, are both paintings of subjects which stood high on the list of ekphrastic descriptions; indeed as Alastair Fowler says, ‘The locus classicus [of ekphrasis] was Aeneas’s response to the Carthage murals showing the fall of Troy’ (Fowler 2003: 77). This is in Aeneid, Book I, when Aeneas is moved to tears as he sees the temple which Dido has built to goddess Juno; its bronze gates are decorated with pictures representing the fall of Troy. In Book II Aeneas tells that story – which is, of course, his own story – at first hand to Dido, but in Book I he is describing what he can actually see depicted in a work of art, which makes it a true ekphrasis. Unlike the siege of Troy, the Calydonian Boar Hunt, which was depicted on the facing frieze of the gallery at Cullen, is the subject of one of the actual imagines of Philostratus the Younger, which surely establishes its right to be considered an example of what I am calling realised ekphrasis, even if it owes more to Ovid’s than to Philostratus’s description of the hunt which Meleager, prince of Calydon, organised to kill the monstrous wild boar that goddess Diana had sent to ravage the land. In that Ovidian story Atalanta triumphs over her male compatriots, who miss their target or leap up into the trees, by herself shooting the arrow which kills the huge boar (Bath 2003: 211-212). Philostratus’s ‘Meleager’ is not illustrated by de Vigenère since it is one of the Suite of Images in the latter part of the book by Philostratus the Younger, all but two of which lack illustrations, so there was no engraving of this subject for the Cullen artist to copy, even if he knew of de Vigenère’s illustrated edition.

Fig. 13Cullen House, Banffshire, The Seige of Troy, digital reconstruction of painting on frieze of original long gallery destroyed by fire in 1987.

Fig. 13 Cullen House, Banffshire, The Siege of Troy, digital reconstruction of painting on frieze of original long gallery destroyed by fire in 1987.

Fig. 14Cullen House, Banffshire, Calydonian Boar Hunt, digital reconstruction of painting on frieze of original long gallery destroyed by fire in 1987.

Fig. 14 Cullen House, Banffshire, Calydonian Boar Hunt, digital reconstruction of painting on frieze of original long gallery destroyed by fire in 1987.

Fig. 15Monymusk, Aberdeenshire, Hector and Achilles, tempera painting in window bay.

Fig. 15 Monymusk, Aberdeenshire, Hector and Achilles, tempera painting in window bay.

[10] The remarkable painting at Monymusk, Aberdeenshire, in a window bay which the painter has reinterpreted in a rather wonderful bit of trompe l’oeil as a tent opening, shows Hector talking to Achilles: on one side sits Hector, on the other Achilles, and we know this is who they are because there is an inscription between the two that identifies them: ‘When during a trewes of four monethes maist worthy and noble hector walked into the grekes host and of the talking betwyne him and ferce Achyles’. (Fig. 15) Hector’s meeting with Achilles is not described by Homer or Virgil (nor indeed by Philostratus) but goes back to the twelfth-century medieval reworking of the Troy story by Benoît de Sainte Maure (Bath 2003: 213-214). It had already been illustrated in the visual arts in some late-fifteenth century tapestries, but the way this painting shows two onlookers peering over the tent flaps comes very close to realising Philostratus’s recommendations for illusionist painting in his description of a picture of the siege of Thebes (‘Menoeceus’) where, he says, ‘The clever artifice of the painter is delightful. Encompassing the walls with armed men, he depicts them so that some are seen in full figure, others with the legs hidden, others from the waist up, then only the busts of some, heads only, helmets only, and finally just spear points. This … is perspective [lit. ‘the principle of proportion’] since the problem is to deceive the eyes’ (Philostratus 1931, p. 17).

[11] This is a passage which has had a significant influence on thinking about the role of the imagination, and the relationship between truth and deception, in the visual arts (Dundas 1993: 70-71); indeed Philostratus’s description has attracted the attention of modern literary and art historians ever since Ernst Gombrich (1962: 176-177) pointed out that it appears to authorise Shakespeare’s description of the Troy wall painting in Tarquin’s chamber in The Rape of Lucrece:

For much imaginary work was there
Conceit deceitful, so compact, so kind,
That for Achilles image stood his spear,
Grip’d in an armed hand, himself behind
Was left unseen, save to the eye of mind:
A hand, a foot, a face, a leg, a head
Stood for the whole to be imagined. (ll.1422-28)

We have already remarked how the Pinkie rendition of the Birth of Pindar suggests a theatrical scenario, and in this context it is worth noting Frances Yates’s claim:

Philostratus was one of [Ben] Jonson’s favourite authors, and though the Vigenère commentary is published too late for him to have used it in the earlier masques, it should, I think, be consulted in relation to Jonson, for it reflects the mythological learning of those French circles out of which the ballet de cour, so close a relation of the English masque, was born. (Yates 1951: 179)

Fig. 16 ‘Anthée’ as illustrated in Philostratus, Les Images, translated by Blaise de Vigenère,  Paris 1614, repr. 1637: 470. Photo Bayerische Staatsbibliothek.

Fig. 16 ‘Anthée’ as illustrated in Philostratus, Les Images, translated by Blaise de Vigenère, Paris 1614, repr. 1637: 470. Photo Bayerische Staatsbibliothek.

Some of the clearest signs of Jonson’s debts to Philostratus are, perhaps, to be found in the masque Pleasure Reconciled to Virtue, performed at court on Twelfth Night, 6th of January 1618. The masque dramatises the expulsion by Hercules of gross sensuality from the world, characterised by ‘the belly god’ Comus and by the giant Antaeus – Antaeus was son of the earth goddess Gaia and was invincible as long as his feet touched the ground of his mother earth; Hercules accordingly defeated him in classical mythology on his way to his eleventh labour by lifting him up into the air and holding him there. Antaeus is the subject of one of Philostratus’s descriptions showing Hercules lifting the semi-giant off the ground and being congratulated by the descending heavenly figure of Mercury. (Fig. 16) He puts in no appearance directly in Pleasure Reconciled to Virtue, but Hercules alludes to the myth in his opening observations on the ‘first Antimasque’ which is danced by ‘Men in the shape of bottles, tuns. &c’: ‘What rytes are theis? Breeds Earth more Monsters yet? Antaeus scarce is cold’, he exclaims. In the ‘second Antimasque’ Hercules is roused from his sleep at the foot of Mount Atlas by a chorus of pigmies whom he sweeps from the land; they enter the stage with the words ‘Antaeus dead? And Hercules yet live?’ (Jonson 1925-52 7: ll. 87-9 135). The pygmies vaingloriously resolve to attack him, and attempt to steal his club, an action which we find pictured in the illustration to de Vigenère’s ‘Hercules Furieux’ showing Hercules destroying a host of pigmies who have attacked him (Fig. 17).

Fig. 17‘Hercules Furieux’ as illustrated in Philostratus, Les Images, translated by Blaise de Vigenère, Paris 1614, repr. 1637: 486. Photo Bayerische Staatsbibliothek.

Fig. 17 ‘Hercules Furieux’ as illustrated in Philostratus, Les Images, translated by Blaise de Vigenère, Paris 1614, repr. 1637: 486. Photo Bayerische Staatsbibliothek.

[12] Hercules is a well-known hero, but many of Philostratus’s pictures represent relatively obscure and unfamiliar figures from Greek mythology and Comus is one of these: one looks in vain for him, as students of Milton soon learn, in any of the familiar classical mythographies, which is why we can be fairly sure that he found his way into the English court masque from this source and no other; indeed it was probably Jonson’s precedent that led to A Masque Presented at Ludlow Castle in 1634. Comus is depicted in what is only the second of Philostratus’s Imagines by a picture which shows no figure of the portly belly-god identified by Jonson in the opening lines of Pleasure Reconciled to Virtue, but shows figures feasting and dancing in a darkened hall, where candles and a flaming torch consume themselves, just as people do who abandon themselves to base desires. (Fig. 18) The scene depicts what Artus Thomas’s epigram describes in its opening line as ‘Un masque’, by which he means primarily the disguise which suits carnivalesque pleasure-seekers, but by the second line it has become identified with ‘la dance et le bal’. The use of the word ‘masque’ so prominently beneath this picture must surely have played its part in securing the enduring association of Comus with courtly feasting and dancing.

Fig. 18 ‘Comus’ as illustrated in Philostratus, Les Images, translated by Blaise de Vigenère,  Paris 1614: 9. Photo Bayerische Staatsbibliothek.

Fig. 18 ‘Comus’ as illustrated in Philostratus, Les Images, translated by Blaise de Vigenère, Paris 1614: 9. Photo Bayerische Staatsbibliothek.

[13] Having expelled the grosser pleasures from the courtly world of make-believe in Jonson’s Pleasure Reconciled to Virtue Hercules is joined by Mercury, who descends not from Olympus but from Mount Atlas to congratulate him on suffocating Antaeus (‘Anteus by thee suffocated here’) and expelling ‘the voluptuous Comus’. For a picture of Mercury descending from the heavens on precisely such a mission we have only to look at Jaspar Isaac’s illustration of Philostratus’s ‘Antaeus’ (see Fig. 16).  In Jonson’s masque Mercury points to the figure of Virtue, who sits opposite Pleasure on the mountain, and tells Hercules that the time has come when the two opposites should be reconciled on earth in a union that will inaugurate what amounts to a Hesperian golden age. In achieving this reconciliation Hercules will fulfill, Mercury says, the aim of ‘My grandsire Atlas’ who ‘taught thee all the learning of the sphere, And how, like him, thou might’st the heavens up-bear’. For an image of Hercules supporting Atlas we need only refer to the picture entitled ‘Athlas’ in de Vigenère, where what Philostratus describes and what we see in the unsigned illustration is, indeed, Hercules offering to relieve Atlas of his burden. (Fig. 19) It is the way the whole action of this masque brings together as many as four different mythological pictures from Philostratus that suggests its influence. The first performance of Pleasure Reconciled to Virtue on Twelfth Night 1618 was not a great success, and Jonson revised it for a repeat performance in February the same year which included an additional antimasque entitled For the Honour of Wales to celebrate the dancing debut of Charles as Prince of Wales; it features a cast of Welshmen whose funny Welsh accents are satirised in the dialogue.

Fig. 19 ‘Atlas’ as illustrated in Philostratus, Les Images, translated by Blaise de Vigenère,  Paris 1614, repr. 1637: 463. Photo Bayerische Staatsbibliothek.

Fig. 19 ‘Atlas’ as illustrated in Philostratus, Les Images, translated by Blaise de Vigenère, Paris 1614, repr. 1637: 463. Photo Bayerische Staatsbibliothek.

[14] Only two months later Jonson was in Scotland, having walked all the way on foot, where he stayed with William Drummond at Hawthornden and had some famous conversations about life and literature. Those conversations evidently included some discussion of the painted ceiling in Alexander Seton’s gallery at Pinkie, although whether Jonson actually visited the house and saw the ceiling is unknown.[13] What we do know, however, is that on his return to London, in 1619, Jonson wrote to Drummond reminding him of some Scottish materials which Drummond had promised to send him: ‘I most earnestly solicit you for your promise of the inscriptions at Pinky,’ he writes in what is the earliest record we have of this painted ceiling. That Jonson is referring to the ceiling and not to the other monumental inscriptions we have noticed at Pinkie is suggested by the fact that although what Drummond actually sent him was not a description of the painted gallery, it was a very full and detailed description of the similarly emblematic embroideries which Mary Queen of Scots had sewn on her Bed of State, bed hangings which only four years earlier had been sent down to London for repair in preparation for King James’s visit to Scotland in 1617 (Bath 2008: 17-21). The bed hangings were in the care of the keeper of the King’s wardrobe in Scotland, a man called John Auchmoutie, who was ordered to send them to London for repairs. The same John Auchmoutie must have accompanied, or followed, them down to London, for he danced in more than one of the court masques, including For the Honour of Wales in which the Welsh antimasquers have some trouble getting their Welsh tongues round Scottish names, including his own, comically arguing that Sir Robert Kerr must be Welsh since his name echoes that of ‘Caerlyon, Caermadin, Cardiff’ whereas ‘Acmooty,’ they argue, ‘is Ap-mouth-wy of Llanmouthwye’ (Jonson 10: 592). The connections between Jonson, Auchmoutie, and Seton extend somewhat further since John Auchmoutie actually married Seton’s niece, Isabel, daughter of his brother William, sometime Sheriff of Edinburgh and Postmaster of Scotland (Bath and Craig 2010: 285). Seton is likely to have taken an interest in Prince Charles’s coming out into public life, which is what both these masque performances were celebrating in 1618, since Seton had been guardian to the baby prince in his earliest years, until the seven year old prince was taken down to London in 1604 (Seton 1882: 50-53, 61). Auchmoutie, and his descendants, retained their hereditary role as Keepers of the King’s Wardrobe in Scotland for more than 100 years, long after there was effectively any wardrobe to be kept, though the embroidered State Bed of Mary Queen of Scots evidently remained in Auchmoutie’s care up until the Civil Wars when it disappeared (Bath and Craig 2010: 286-287). None of this evidence proves any direct influence of the Pinkie ceiling, let alone of a single detail from that ceiling, on the English court masques of Ben Jonson and Inigo Jones, but clearly we have quite a close correspondence between the ways in which the Imagines of Philostratus were being used in the applied arts of both Scotland and England at this time. The long gallery was not any kind of theatre or masquing arena, but rather a gallery for philosophical perambulation, or a memory theatre perhaps, combining word and image, but I think there can be little doubt that, in copying an illustration which claimed to realise an ancient ekphrasis out of Philostratus, the First Earl of Dunfermline was confirming his intention of creating a faithful and accurate imitation or renovatio of the classical arts in early-modern Scotland.

[15] There is one further antiquarian discovery which may well have influenced this piece of neoclassical renovatio, for in 1549 it was near Musselburgh that one of the earliest Roman inscribed altar stones ever to be found in Scotland was reported. Its inscription recorded that the stone had been dedicated to Apollo Grannus, known as the ‘long-haired Apollo’, by an Imperial Procurator called Quintus Lucius Sabinus: APOLLINI GRANNO Q. LVSIVS SABINVS PROC. AVG. V. S. L. V.M. (To Apollo Grannus, Quintus Lucius Sabinianus, Imperial Procurator, fulfils his vow freely, gladly and deservedly’ – the concluding abbreviation is short for ‘votum susceptum solvit lubens merito’). That the Roman empire had reached Scotland in classical times had long been evident to readers of Tacitus, but the discovery of actual Roman antiquities north of Hadrian’s wall must have brought home to educated Scots the continuities between the ancient world and the land they lived in. The Musselburgh discovery aroused extraordinary interest at the time, much of it from people known to Seton personally. In 1565 the English ambassador to Scotland, Thomas Randolph, wrote about it to William Cecil, ‘The cave found bysyde Muskelbourge semeth to be some monument of the Romaynes, by a stone that was found, with these words greven upon hym APOLLINI GRANNO Q. L. SABINIANVS PROC. AVG.’ The cave, he writes, was made out of ‘Dyvers short pillars sette upright in the ground, covered with tyle stones large and thycke’ (Cardonald 1809: 87). In the same year Mary Queen of Scots ordered that a messenger be sent from Edinburgh to ‘direct the Baillis of Mussilburgh, charging thame to tak diligent heid and attendance, that the monument of grit antiquitie new funden be nocht demolish nor brokin down’ (Chalmers 1818: 294). In the Scottish part of his Britannia (in Philemon Holland’s English translation of 1610), William Camden mentions the altar stone immediately following his account of the Battle of Pinkie, citing John Napier, who also mentions the stone in his commentary on the Apocalypse; Camden prints an accurate copy of the inscription which, he tells us, was made for him by ‘the eminent sir Peter Young, tutor to king James VI’ (Camden 1610: ‘Lothien’ para.3). Camden’s book would almost certainly have been known to Alexander Seton, as would Napier’s, indeed in 1617 Napier dedicated his book on logarithms to Seton. In building his strongly neoclassical villa suburbana close to the site of a monument which testified to the fact that Scotland had once been part of the Roman imperium Seton must have recognised the importance of signalling its status as a classical revival, and this may well be why he resorted to such neoclassicism more strongly at his house in Musselburgh than in his other houses at Fyvie or at Winton. Another inscription on the front of the house at Pinkie – now no longer visible – confirms the date when he built it: ‘Dominus Alexander Setonius hanc domum aedificavit, non ad animi, sed fortunatum et agelli modum, 1613’ (Master Alexander Seton built this house not as he wished it to be, but as circumstances and finances permitted, 1613).[14] The illustrated edition of de Vigenère’s Images, ou tableaux de platte peinture was only published in 1614, as we have seen, which suggests just how closely in touch Seton must have been with the publication of learned books published overseas; it also gives us a terminus post quem for the actual painting of his long gallery, a year or so later than the date he records for the actual building of the house.

[16] Which brings us back to the inscriptions at Pinkie. The full inscription defining the building as a suburban villa reads:


[To God the best and greatest. For his own benefit, for the benefit of his descendents, and that of all men of cultivation and urbanity, Alexander Seton, most loving of culture and the humanities, has founded, erected and decorated a villa, gardens and these suburban buildings. There is nothing here to do with warfare, not even a ditch to repel enemies, but a fountain of pure water, lawns, pools and other things that may add to their pleasures in order to welcome guests with kindness and treat them with benevolence. He has brought together all kinds of amenities that can afford decent pleasures of heart and mind. But he declares that whoever shall destroy this by theft, sword or fire, or behaves in any kind of hostile manner, will show himself to be a man devoid of all charity and  urbanity, nay an enemy of all culture and the human race. The sacred stones will speak and proclaim it.]

The inscription can still be found, not on the actual building but on the garden wall. This was not its original position, however, since George Seton (1896: 822) tells us that this and the adjoining slab lay detached for many years before being built into the garden wall in 1884. This information led me incautiously to assume that the inscriptions had originally appeared on the external face of the actual building (Bath 2007: 73). However thanks to Marilyn Brown’s recent book Scotland’s Lost Gardens (Brown 2012: 155) we now know that this inscription was always associated with the garden rather than the house itself, for SirJohn Lauder, in 1668, records the inscription as ‘above the outer gate’ of ‘a most sweit garden’ with a long green walk, a 200 foot knot (‘much larger than that at Hamilton’), summer houses, ‘sundrie parks’, and ripe figs: the letters of the inscription were in gold (Lauder 1900: 189-90). This affords strong support for the case made by David Allen for the garden at Pinkie as a leading example of a type which became characteristic of Scotland in the seventeenth century which Allen characterises as the neo-Stoic garden: ‘In preparing the ground for Scotland’s eager adoption of post-Renaissance garden cultivation, no more relevant development can be identified than the powerful resurgence of interest in classical Stoicism which so marked the second half of the sixteenth century’ (Allan 1997: 61). As Allan reminds us, Stoicism offered some refuge from the disorder and disruption of public life, becoming strongly associated, particularly in the neo-Stoicism of Justus Lipsius, with a belief that rural withdrawal or gardening represented not some Epicurean retreat from public responsibility but ‘the most appropriate venue for the effective Stoical cultivation of prudentia’ (Allan 1997: 62). Its Scottish exponents include Florence Wilson, whose De animi tranquilitate dialogus (1542) records a philosophical neo-Platonic discussion in a garden above Lyons, and they include William Drummond, whose verse ‘breathes the authentic spirit’ Allan suggests, ‘of contemporary neo-Stoic pastoralism’ (1997: 64-65). Comparable gardens include, according to Allan, Sir David Lindsay’s garden at Edzell with its classical bas-reliefs of the Liberal Arts and Planetary Deities, the Drummond Castle of the Earls of Perth at Crieff, and the castle of the Gordon Earls of Sutherland as far north as Dunrobin. ‘All of these innovations,’ writes Allan, ‘seemingly expressed a zealous but overdue Scottish attachment to the horticultural enthusiasm of the French and Italian Renaissances’ (1997: 60).

[17] Whatever reservations we might have about defining all of these as strictly ‘neo-Stoic’, the remarkable correspondence between the cultural and philosophical context defined by Allan for this type of Scottish garden in the seventeenth century and that which we have defined for the house itself at Pinkie is striking.[15] Not only is the long gallery a recreation of the Athenian stoa poikile in which Stoicism had its origins and from which it took its name but, as I have noted elsewhere, the emblem book which was the source for most of its emblems, Otto Vaenius’s Emblemata Horatiana, was in fact dedicated to Justus Lipsius, the great Dutch exponent of neo-Stoicism (Bath 2003: 96).[16] The subject of the picture which Seton selected from the 67 illustrations to de Vigenère also confirms Allan’s hypothesis, for Pindar was the greatest of Greek lyric poets, and the rejoicing of Earth goddess Rhea, with Pan and the Nymphs, at his birth suggests his association with the strongly pastoral and bucolic genres of poetry which Allan identifies – in the writing of such poets as William Drummond, William Alexander, or Alexander Ross – as expressions of Scottish seventeenth-century neo-Stoicism. The fact that the remarkable inscription describing Seton’s building at Pinkie as a modest, peaceful Plinian villa suburbana was originally placed above the gateway leading into its garden is therefore not only a confirmation of Allan’s thesis concerning the philosophical context for the wider development of the country-house poem, and garden, in seventeenth-century Scotland, but also a strong indication of the unity of both house and garden at Pinkie itself.[17] The fact that all the windows in this generously fenestrated painted gallery actually overlook the garden offers a final confirmation of the architectural and intellectual unity of the house and its garden. It was only in the eighteenth century that Edinburgh staked its claim to be viewed as ‘Athens of the North’, but long before this we can surely see the same spirit of classical emulation anticipated in the house which Scotland’s great humanist, Catholic Chancellor, Alexander Seton, built himself at Pinkie in 1613.


[1] Pliny’s much longer description of his ‘Laurentine’ villa, Epist. II.16, was equally influential, containing as it does a detailed account of its apartments and surroundings. [back to text]

[2] The significance of this inscription is now increasingly recognised in Scottish architectural histories, see Howard 1995: 51; Glendinning, MacInnes, and  MacKechnie 1996: 29,  56. [back to text]

[3] The Philostratus source was identified for me by Stephane Rolet (University of Paris-VIII and École Pratique des Hautes Études) and Anne Rolet (University of Nantes) during an excursion to Pinkie House organised for delegates attending the Ninth International Conference of the Society for Emblem Studies in Glasgow, July 2011. I am greatly indebted to them for this discovery, and for prompting me to explore its Scottish significance in the present article. [back to text]

[4] Seton had as it happens played a significant part in negotiations for a political union of the two kingdoms. In 1604 he was appointed Vice-Chancellor of Scotland and commissioner for the projected political union between England and Scotland which, in the event, only came about more than 100 years later, in 1707. [back to text]

[5] The first edition of de Vigenère appeared in Paris, 1578, unillustrated, with reprints in 1502 and 1511; the first illustrated edition was printed in Paris in 1614/1615 (some copies have the date altered by the simple addition of an extra ‘I’, but are the same edition), with further editions in 1629/1630, and 1637. As Adams, Rawles and Saunders remark, ‘It is remarkable that such a large work should have been reprinted so frequently’ (2002: 294): their Bibliography of French Emblem Books is now the fullest and most accurate account of the publishing history of this work. The 1614/15 edition, they note, required an investment of 4000 écus for the engravings alone. The fact that there are only three illustrations to the latter half of the volume, containing the Suite de Philostrate and the Heroïques de Callistrate, suggests that despite this large investment economies had to be made as the book progressed. All 65 of the preceding Imagines of Philostratus the Elder are illustrated, however. For an excellent and informative study of the reception of de Vigenère’s Philostratus in seventeenth-century France see Crescenzo 1999. [back to text]

[6] For Caron’s illustrations and the influence of French ballet de cour in Scotland see Bath 2013. [back to text]

[7] My assumption that it must have been Seton himself who chose the emblems for his ceiling rests on everything we know about his intellectual interests, education and library. Although his friend, architect William Schaw, might possibly have been consulted, there is no evidence that Schaw worked on Pinkie, and the actual painters or their lead designer would not have had the command of Latin or access to these resources. [back to text]

[8] NLS Acc 9769/14/2/2. I am extremely grateful to Peter Davidson for drawing my attention to this Inventory, on which he is currently working, and to the Earl of Crawford and Balcarres for allowing me access to it. [back to text]

[9] The standard work on the rediscovery of the Domus Aurea remains Dacos 1969; for the use of grottesco ornament in Scotland see Bath 2010, and for its wider influence see Zamperini 2008. [back to text]

[10] The case for a more diverse and eclectic set of classical models for the northern Renaissance was strongly argued by the various contributors to Albion’s Classicism: The Visual Arts in Britain, 1550-1660, see in particular the contributions by Lucy Gent, Christy Anderson, Susan Foister, and Catherine Belsey in Gent 1995. [back to text]

[11] The octagonal cupola has been shown to copy the illustration from Hans Vredeman de Vries, Perspectiva, Antwerp 1604-5: 20, see Bath 2003: 102. [back to text]

[12] For Titian in this context see e.g. Murutes 1973. The literary source for the Andrians in Philostratus was first identified by F. Wickhoff (Wickhoff 1902). [back to text]

[13] The precise details of Ben Jonson’s visit to Scotland have remained uncertain ever since 1623, when the documents recording them went up in smoke with the fire which consumed Jonson’s library. However James Loxley’s recent discovery of a manuscript recording the journey and written by an unidentified travelling companion confirms that he not only visited Seton Palace at Winton and Sir George Bruce’s house with its emblematic painted ceiling at Culross, but also stayed in Dunfermline, where he played ‘shooting at buttes’ with Alexander Seton and his wife. For further information on this important document, which will certainly advance our understanding of the relations between Scotland and the culture of the Stuart court in England, we await the publication of Ben Jonson’s Foot-Voyage to Scotland, ed. Groundwater, Loxley and Sanders (announced as forthoming 2014). Anna Groundwater’s preliminary summary has just appeared as the present article went to press in a two-part resumé in the popular History Scotland  magazine (Groundwater 2013). [back to text]

[14] The inscription recording the date of the building is noted in Seton 1882, p. 17. [back to text]

[15] For the wider influence of neo-stoicism in Scotland see Allen’s Philosophy and Politics in Later Stuart Scotland: Neo-Stoicism, Culture and Ideology in an Age of Crisis, 1540-1690, East Linton, 2000. [back to text]

[16] For neo-Stoicism and the visual arts see  M. Morford, Stoics and Neostoics: Rubens and the Circle of Lipsius, New Haven, 1992. [back to text]

[17] The importance of relating the building to its setting is well argued by McKean 2003. [back to text]



Adams, Alison, S. Rawles, and A. Saunders. 2002. A Bibliography of French Emblem Books, vol. 2 (Geneva: Droz)

Allan, David. 1997. ‘“A Commendation of the Private Countrey Life”: Philosophy and the Garden in Seventeenth-Century Scotland,’ Garden History 25: 1, 59-80.

_____. 2000. Philosophy and Politics in Later Stuart Scotland: Neo-Stoicism, Culture and Ideology in an Age of Crisis, 1540-1690. (East Linton: Tuckwell)

Anderson, Christy. 1995. ‘Learning to Read Architecture in the English Renaissance’, in Lucy Gent, ed. 1995. Albion’s Classicism: The Visual Arts in Britain, 1550-1660. (New Haven: Yale University Press): 239-287.

Bann, Stephen. 2009. ‘Philostratus and the Narcissus of Caravaggio’, in Philostratus, ed. Ewen Bowie and Jas Elsner. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), 343-355.

Bath, Michael. 2003. Renaissance Decorative Painting in Scotland. (Edinburgh: National Museums of Scotland)

_____. 2007. ‘Ben Jonson, William Fowler and the Pinkie Ceiling,’ Architectural Heritage 18: 73-86.

_____. 2008. Emblems for a Queen: The Needlework of Mary Queen of Scots. (London: Archetype)

Michael Bath, ‘Andrew Bairhum, Giovanni Ferrerio and the “Lighter Style of Painting”‘, Journal of the Northern Renaissance, 2 (2010) <http://www.northernrenaissance.org/andrew-bairhum-giovanni-ferrerio-and-the-lighter-style-of-painting/>

_____, ‘“Rare shewes and singular inventions”: The Stirling Baptism of Prince Henry’, Journal of the Northern Renaissance, 4 (2012) <http://www.northernrenaissance.org/rare-shewes-and-singular-inventions-the-stirling-baptism-of-prince-henry/>

Bath, Michael and Jennifer Craig. 2010. ‘What Happened to Mary Stuart’s bed of State?’ Emblematica, 18: 279-288.

Belsey, Catherine. 1995. ‘Classicism and Cultural Dissonance’, in Lucy Gent, ed. 1995. Albion’s Classicism: The Visual Arts in Britain, 1550-1660. (New Haven: Yale University Press): 427-442.

Bertos, Rigas N. 1976. ‘A Short Note on the “Bacchanal of the Andrians”’, Mitteilungen des Kunsthistorischen Institutes in Florenz 20.3: 407-410.

Bowie, Ewen and Jas Elsner, eds. 2009. Philostratus. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press)

Brown, Marilyn. 2012. Scotland’s Lost Gardens. (Edinburgh: Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland)

Camden, William. 1607. Britannia, trans. Philemon Holland. (London: G. Bishop and J. Norton)

Cardonald, Adam de. 1809. ‘Description of Certain Roman Ruins Discovered at Inveresk,’ Archaeologia Scotica: Transactions of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, 2: 159-167, 287-288.

Chalmers, George. 1818. ‘Miscellaneous Communications: Randolph’s Letters Concerning Roman Antiquities Discovered near Musselburgh’, Archaeologia Scotica: Transactions of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, 3: 294-295.

Crescenzo, Richard. 1999. Peintures d’instruction: la posterité littéraire de Philostrate en France de Blaise de Vigenère à l’époque classique. (Geneva : Droz)

Dacos, Nicole. 1969. La découverte de la Domus Aurea et la formation des grotesques à la renaissance (London: Warburg Institute)

Dundas, Judith. 1993. Pencil’s Rhetorique: Renaissance Poets and the Art of Painting. (Newark: University of Delaware Press)

Fowler, Alastair. 2003. Renaissance Realism: Narrative Images in Literature and Art (Oxford: Oxford University Press)

Gent, Lucy. 1995. ‘“The Rash Gazer”: Economies of Vision in Britain, 1550-1660’, in Lucy Gent, ed. 1995. Albion’s Classicism: The Visual Arts in Britain, 1550-1660. (New Haven: Yale University Press): 377-394.

Glendinning, Miles, R. MacInnes, and A. MacKechnie.1996. A History of Scottish Architecture from the Renaissance to the Present Day. (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press)

Raichel le Goff. ‘Continuity in Change: Revisualizations of Philostratus’s Eikones’, Humanitas, 10/2 (1997) <http://www.nhinet.org/humsub/lego10-2.htm>

Gombrich, Ernst. 1962. Art and Illusion. (London: Phaidon Press)

Groundwater, Anna. 2013. ‘Ben Jonson’s Walk to Scotland’, History Scotland, vol.13/3, May/Jun, pp.24-29, and 13/4 July/Aug, 2013, pp. 32-36.

Hagstrum, Jean H. 1958. The Sister Arts: The Tradition of Literary Pictorialism and English Poetry from Dryden to Gray. (Chicago: Chicago University Press)

Howard, Deborah. 1995. The Architectural History of Scotland: Reformation to Restoration, 1560-1660. (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press)

Jonson, Ben. 1925-52. The Complete Works of Ben Jonson. Ed. C. H. Herford and Percy Simpson. 11 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press)

Lauder, John. 1900. The Journals of Sir John Lauder. (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, Publications of the Scottish History Society, 36)

Lebey de Batilly, Denis. 1596. Emblemata. (Frankfurt: [s.n.])

Maitland, Richard. 1829. History of the House of Seton. (Glasgow: Maitland Club)

McKean, Charles. 2003 ‘The Scottish Renaissance Country Seat in its Setting,’ Journal of Garden History 31:2, 141-62.

Morford, M. 1992. Stoics and Neostoics: Rubens and the Circle of Lipsius (New Haven: Yale University Press)

Murutes, M. 1973 ‘Personifications of Laughter and Dunken Sleep in Titian’s “Andrians,”’ Burlington Magazine 115:845, 518-525.

Newby, Zahra. 2009. ‘Absorption and Erudition in Philostratus’s Imagines’, in Bowie and Jas Elsner, eds. 2009: 322-342.

Philostratus. 1615. Les images ou tableaux de platte peinture des deux Philostrates sophistes grecs, trans. by Blaise de Vigenère. (Paris: chez veuve Abel l’Angelier et veuve Guilleminot, repr. New York : Garland, 1967)

_____. 1931. Imagines, with a Translation by Arthur Fairbanks (London: Heinemann)

Praz, Mario. 1964. Studies in Seventeenth-Century Imagery. (Rome: Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura)

Seton, Bruce Gordon. 1939. The House of Seton: A Study in Lost Causes (Edinburgh: Lindsay and Macleod)

Seton, George. 1882. Memoir of Alexander Seton Earl of Dunfermline. (Edinburgh: Blackwood)

Seton, George. 1896. A History of the House of Seton. (Edinburgh: Privately Printed by T. and A. Constable)

Veen, Otto van. 1607. Horatii Flaccii Emblemata (Antwerp: Jerome Verdussen)

Vigenère, Blaise de. 1586. Traité des chiffres, ou secrètes manières d’escrire. (Paris: L’Angelier)

Wickhoff, F. 1902, ‘Venezianische Bilder,’ Jahrbuch der Preussischen Kunstsammlungen, 23: 118-120.

Edith Wyss, ‘An Unexpected Classical Source for Jacob Jordaens’, <http://www.kunstpedia.com/articles/an-unexpected-classical-source-for-jacob-jordaens.html>

Yates, Frances. 1951. ‘The Symbolic Persons in the Masques of Ben Jonson by Allan H. Gilbert’ (review article), The Review of English Studies, 2: 177-179.

_____. 1959. The Valois Tapestries. (London: Warburg Institute)

Zamperini, Alessandra. 2008. Ornament and the Grotesque: Fantastical Decoration from Antiquity to Art Nouveau. (London: Thames and Hudson)

‘Rare shewes and singular inventions’: The Stirling Baptism of Prince Henry

‘Rare shewes and singular inventions’: The Stirling Baptism of Prince Henry

Michael Bath

[1] In an article on the celebrations surrounding the baptism of James VI at Stirling in 1566, Michael Lynch reached the rather challenging conclusion that ‘Stirling in 1566 deserves to be restored to its proper place as the venue of what was by most yardsticks the first truly Renaissance festival which Great Britain had ever witnessed’ (Lynch 1990: 21). The claim seems challenging, if only because students of English literature have been led to think that what Stephen Orgel and Roy Strong (1973) called The Theatre of the Stuart Court only began in England after the Union of the Crowns in 1603. Students of architecture have, likewise, been encouraged to think that English, if not British, architecture in this period was holding its breath for the belated arrival of Inigo Jones.[1] Yet we should surely remember that, as I have argued elsewhere, ‘the Stuart/Stewart dynasty that assumed power in England only in 1603 had already reigned in Scotland for more than two hundred years in a court which had its own culture – its own musical, literary and dramatic entertainments’ (Bath 2001: 183). Those entertainments have not remained completely unknown or unstudied, of course, even if Clare MacManus was right to claim, as recently as 2000, that ‘Early modern Scottish courtly performance has long suffered from neglect in favour of investigations into that of England and the major European nations’ (McManus 2000: 178). However if Lynch is right about the 1566 baptism then clearly students of the ‘Stuart’ court in England need to take account of the considerable body of work that has been done – by scholars such as Helen Mennie Shire, Andrea Thomas, and Michael Lynch himself – on the culture of the Stewart Court in Scotland. In the light of wider studies of court festivals by scholars such as Sydney Anglo, Margaret McGowan, Victor Graham and W. McAllister Johnson, J. R. Mulryne, Helen Watenabe-O’Kelly, or Robert J. Knecht, the time has surely come for us to insist on the internationalism of court culture and court festivals throughout Europe in this period.[2] It is, after all, not surprising that these should be international since all royal families depend for their succession on inter-dynastic marriages.

[2] If we are to place the Scottish festivals in context, however, we need to identify those features and conventions which they share with their English and continental equivalents. If those can be shown to have anticipated, or even influenced, the seventeenth-century Jacobean court in England we shall have made at least some progress with challenging what Rick Bowers has called the ‘prevalent Anglocentric bias that dates Stuart culture from 1603, when James succeeded to the English throne’ (Bowers 2005: 3). What Michael Lynch shows, in his study of the 1566 baptism (Lynch 1990), is that Mary Queen of Scots’ celebrations were closely modelled on the Valois magnificences organised by Catherine de Medicis in France, a year or two earlier, in which Mary’s mother-in-law had sought to reconcile the religious differences that were tearing her country apart. In a later article on ‘Court Ceremony and Ritual’, however, Lynch suggests that the 1594 baptism was more influenced by English rather than by French models. The opening tournament, he writes, ‘was a straightforward copy of what by the 1580s had become a regular spectacle in England, the Accession Day tilts, where a Protestant ethic was grafted on to a revived tradition of Burgundian chivalry’ (Lynch 2000: 89). This reading of the 1594 Baptism, in which French (Catholic) ceremonial models were overtaken by English (Protestant) ones has been further developed by Lynch himself in 2003. It has also been pursued by Rick Bowers, who argues that William Fowler’s 1594 True Reportarie of the 1594 ceremonies in Stirling, ‘represents a new form of political announcement, a reformed Protestant communiqué that breaks with a Catholic past, balances Scottish nationalism with British union, and asserts the cultural complexities of James’s future power’ (Bowers 2005: 4).

[3] The 1594 Baptism has the advantage over its 1566 predecessor in that we have a fairly full and official description of its ceremonial, whereas everything that we know about its 1566 predecessor has to be built up from fragmentary entries in The Treasurer’s Accounts and other state papers, or from contemporary eye-witness accounts. The political situation surrounding both ceremonies had certainly changed, with Queen Mary’s first-hand experience of the French court being overtaken by James’s preoccupation with his infant son’s succession to the English throne. What I want to do in this paper, however, is to question that contrast between French and English influences, whilst welcoming and insisting on the internationalism of the models and precedents for both celebrations. The continuities between the Scottish 1566 baptism of James VI and the 1594 baptism of his son and heir-apparent are stronger, I want to suggest, than Lynch’s distinction between French and English models might suggest. There remain many elements of the 1594 Baptism that go back directly to French roots, and if we want to see where it is coming from we need to reach not just for our copy of Sidney Anglo (1969) but also our copy of Victor Graham and McAllister Johnson (1979). The use of emblems in the 1594 ceremonies is – I shall suggest – an important part of that internationalism, albeit something that it undoubtedly shares with the English Accession Day tilts.

[4] The printing of William Fowler’s True Reportarie of the Baptism of the Prince of Scotland might itself be a sign of such French influence.[3] The publication of more-or-less official accounts of such ceremonies began in France in the 1550s as a way of capitalising on their huge costs by publicising more widely the magnificence of the occasion and its message. Subsequent French court festivals and royal entries had been commemorated in albums written by such authors as Maurice Scève; Jean Martin, Charles Chappuys, Joachim du Bellay, and emblematist Barthelemy Aneau. In following suit in Edinburgh in 1594, Fowler was therefore following some notable predecessors. It is, however, important to remember that two versions of the True Reportarie were published, one in Edinburgh and the other in London, so that, as Clare McManus says, ‘Despite its rushed and improvised air, Fowler’s festival was designed to signal the magnificence of the Scottish court and to advance James VI’s succession to the English throne; significantly, both Scots and anglicised contemporary variants of the text exist’ (McManus 2000: 185). It was evidently important to King James that his future English subjects noticed what had been performed in Stirling.

[5] Nevertheless, as Roy Strong says, the Valois court festivals, and particularly the magnificences that took place in Fontainebleau in 1564, formed a pattern for those to follow both in France and elsewhere (Strong 1973: 105). Lasting over two or three days, they included two different types of spectacle, outdoors and indoors, the first being predominantly chivalrous, with tournaments such as barriers and running at the ring, or the storming of a fortress. The indoor entertainments included pageant cars, feasting, singing and dancing, and a number of theatrical forms which outlasted these occasions – the Stuart court masque, the French ballet de cour, and the opera. This scenario might tempt us to distinguish the outdoor tournaments from the more theatrical indoor entertainments, but this would be a mistake, for the outdoor martial arts were no less theatrical than the indoor festivities, with the combatants dressed up in costume and often assuming fictitious roles and identities: these are tournaments in fancy dress. Scottish indebtedness to this format is clear when Fowler explains at the start of his description that the Stirling Baptism festivities were ‘devided both in Feeld pastimes, with Martiall and heroicall exploites, and in household, with rare shewes and singular inventions’ (Fowler 1936: 172).

[6] The 1594 Baptism of Prince Henry opened with Running at the Ring ‘in the valley near the castle’ by three Christian Knights of Malta, three Turks ‘verie gorgiouslie attired’, and three Amazons ‘in women’s attire, very sumptuously clad’. All nine of these costumed participants were, of course, courtiers: the three Christian knights were King James himself plus the Earl of Mar and Thomas Erskine; the three Turks were the Duke of Lennox, Lord Home, and Sir Robert Kerr; the three Amazons ‘in women’s attire’ were the Abbot of Holyroodhouse, Lord Buccleuch and Lord Lindores. The taste for cross-dressing of tournament combatants, which seems so odd to us, goes back directly to Valois precedents. The portrait of Francois I as a composite trans-gendered deity combining the features of Mars/Mercury/Minerva/Diana may not illustrate any actual masquing costume, though it surely reflects such disguising.

Fig. 1   François I as a transgendered, composite deity combining the attributes of  Minerva, Mars, Mercury and Diana. Parchment pasted on panel, c. 1545 (Département des Estampes et de la Photographie, Na 255 Rés.)

Fig. 1 François I as a transgendered, composite deity combining the attributes of Minerva, Mars, Mercury and Diana. Parchment pasted on panel, c. 1545 (Département des Estampes et de la Photographie, Na 255 Rés.)

In 1576 Henri III certainly gave a masqued ball in Paris at which he appeared as a woman, with his hair dressed and powdered, his gown cut low décolleté, and wearing brocade, lace and ten ropes of pearls. The most notable appearance of a costumed Amazon in the tiltyard, however, was in the 1565 Bayonne magnificence when Charles IX appeared in the first day’s tournament dressed as a Trojan, whilst his brother Henri – future Henri III – was dressed as an Amazon, wearing a skirt (Strong 1984: 108). If we want to know just what such a cross-dressing Amazon might have looked like, we have only to look at Antoine Caron’s drawing of the Bayonne tournament.

Fig. 2The Bayonne magnificences, 1565, opening tournament showing Charles IX tilting at the quintain whilst his brother Henri follows, dressed as an Amazon. Antoine Caron, attrib., drawing. (Courtauld Institute, University of London.)

Fig. 2   The Bayonne magnificences, 1565, opening tournament showing Charles IX tilting at the quintain whilst his brother Henri follows, dressed as an Amazon. Antoine Caron, attrib., drawing. (Courtauld Institute, University of London.)

This was not the last time that Amazons appeared in Valois court tournaments, for in 1573 Charles with his brothers and the Duc de Guise appeared as Amazons in the magnificence mounted in Paris to celebrate the marriage of Henri de Navarre to Marguerite de Valois. And in a notable prefiguration of the Stirling Baptism, their opponents in this running at the ring were dressed as Turks (Strong 1984: 113).

[7] The taste for Turkish disguising seems to have begun in France at the 1533 celebrations of the wedding of Prince Henry II to Catherine de Medicis in Marseilles, when Catherine’s cousin, Ippolito, recently returned from Hungary, arrived with an escort of Magyars and pages dressed as Turks, wearing turbans and wielding scimitars. French attitudes towards the Islamic empire remained more open-minded than most of its European neighbours, indeed under Henry III the Sultan became France’s ally in opposition to the territorial ambitions of the Empire: the opposition of Turks and Christians in these continental antecedents to the Stirling Baptism does not necessarily imply any foregone preference or advantage therefore for the latter. This was not the first time that Scotland had used such disguising since in 1561 we learn that the French ambassador, de Foys, with his followers, ran at the ring ‘dysguised and apparelled thone half lyke women, and thither lyke strayngers, in strange maskynge garments’ (Calendar of State Papers, ed. Bain, I: 467). For Clare McManus ‘The close approximation of the feminine and the foreign’ in these disguisings needs to be read ‘as symbolic markers of difference’ which underline the gendered rhetoric of ‘a festival which defines Queen Anna as the passive prize of King James’s romance quest’. As she says,

The performance of blackness is not unknown in Scottish entertainments. The first recorded presence of black performers in Scotland dates from 1505 and the court of James IV; however, its perhaps most significant appearance is found in the same king’s tournament of the Black Lady (1507 and 1508) in which a black woman, celebrated in Dunbar’s ‘parodic blazon’ ‘Ane Blak Moir’ as the ‘ladye with the meckle lippis’, performed. (McManus 2000: 189).

There are later Scottish examples, and in 1596 – two years after the Stirling baptism – Moorish and Turkish disguises were adopted in the Danish tournament for the coronation of Christian IV (McManus 2000: 191, citing Lausund 1992). And in England these precedents undoubtedly foreshadow the Stuart court masques of Ben Jonson and Inigo Jones, notably The Masque of Blackness in which Queen Anna actually participated in 1605.

[8] We should not perhaps be surprised to find French antecedents for these Turks and Amazons in Stirling, but it might be more surprising to discover that the wild highlandmen who attacked the burning fortress in the 1566 mock-siege at Stirling had already put in an appearance the year before in France, where the Bayonne magnificences included a pageant of Knights of seven different Nations, at which a group of six knights accompanied the Duc de Guise, all dressed as wild Scotsmen ‘à l’Escossaise sauvage’ (Lynch 1990: 9; Graham and McAllister Johnson 1979: 337). These French Highlanders were admittedly more richly dressed than their Scottish successors: rather than goat skins they wore shirts of white satin, made with embroidery and cloth-of-gold, and coats of yellow velvet whose base was pleated ‘selon la coustume des sauvages’. It was almost certainly the Guise connection with Mary Queen of Scots through her mother that motivated this choice of costume (Bath 2009: 58).

[9]  The internationalism of William Fowler’s designs for the Stirling baptism certainly extends to its prominent use of emblems. Fowler himself had a wider interest in these, for his papers (which were preserved by his son-in-law, poet William Drummond, amongst the Hawthornden Papers now in the National Library of Scotland) include details of the devices embroidered by Mary Queen of Scots for her bed of state, extracts from Italian writers on the art of the impresa, and a note suggesting that he himself had written such a treatise.[4] Fowler tells us that the combatants in the first day’s Running at the Ring in Stirling rode on horses bearing their master’s impresa.

So al the persons being present and at their entrye making their reverence to the queen, embassadours, and ladyes, having their pages ryding upon their led horses and on their left armes bering their maisters Imprese or devyse. (Reportarie, p.175)

This certainly supports Michael Lynch’s contention that the 1594 Scottish Baptism was influenced by the English Accession Day tilts, where imprese were similarly used, indeed Alan Young has shown that the pasteboard shields that were presented as the combatants entered the tiltyard in England were subsequently put on display in an impresa gallery in Whitehall Palace (Young 1987; the devices are fully listed in Young 1988). Fowler would have had the opportunity to witness the Accession Day tilts during his time in England, 1581-1583, since tilts took place in both these years. The precedents for such presentations had been established, however, not in England but in France where, in the Bayonne Magnificence of 1565, for instance, the Arthurian knights of Britain and Ireland presented gold medallions bearing the devices displayed on their shields to the ladies observing their tournament in the tilt gallery. As Roy Strong notes, ‘The official Recueil of these events contains engravings of them’ (Strong 1984: 107; cf Graham and McAllister Johnson 1979: 49, and figs.27-44).

Fig. 3   Device of Filisson de Diques, monseigneur le duc de Longueville. Recueil des choses notables qui ont esté faites à Bayonne, à l'entreueuë du roy treschrestien neufieme de ce nom, [et] la royne sa treshonoree mere, auec la royne catholique sa soeur. Paris: Michel de Vascosan, 1566, p. 77.

Fig. 3 Device of Filisson de Diques, monseigneur le duc de Longueville. Recueil des choses notables qui ont esté faites à Bayonne, à l’entreueuë du roy treschrestien neufieme de ce nom, [et] la royne sa treshonoree mere, auec la royne catholique sa soeur. Paris: Michel de Vascosan, 1566: 77.

[10]  As we begin to unpack the iconography and meaning of these Scottish tiltyard imprese, it becomes clear that – like most emblems – they go back to diverse sources, combining conventional motifs and commonplace mottoes in new ways or, more often than not, inventing new emblems in a bricolage of received ideas. King James, for instance, led the group of three Christian Knights bearing the device of a lion’s head with open eyes ‘which signifieth after a mystique & Hieroglyphique sense Fortitude and Vigilance’. Fowler might seem to be overplaying the ‘mystique and Hieroglyphic’ sense of what might otherwise seem a pretty straightforward heraldic device here, but the King’s motto certainly gives it a more abstruse and pointed application. The motto Timeat et primus et ultimus orbis (He strikes fear into both nearby and distant worlds) comes from Ovid (Fasti, I: 717-18), ‘Horreat Aeneadas et primus et ultimus orbis: Si qua parum Romam terra timebit, amet’. The contrast between local and distant worlds has a long history, going back to Virgil’s description of Britain as an island almost totally cut off from the known world, ‘penitus toto divisos orbe Britannos’ (Ecl. 1, 67), but the distinction had been drawn into imperial iconography most notably in the Plus oultre badge of emperor Charles V, with its two columns signifying the pillars of Hercules that separated the Old World from the new Americas (Bath 2009: 58-59). James’s voyage to Denmark to bring back his bride Anna may look to us somewhat less than transatlantic, but there can be no doubt that the Stirling festival was designed, as McManus (2000) demonstrates, to characterise his voyage as a romance quest, re-enacting Jason’s voyage to secure his bride Medea and the golden fleece. It was an outlandish adventure.

[11]  The Earl of Mar in the Stirling tournament displayed a dog-collar ‘all beset with iron pikes’ and the motto Offendit et defendit (He attacks and protects). The emblem has no exact antecedents, though the prickly iconography surely recalls the famous porcupine device of Louis XII, whose motto Cominus et eminus (Hand-to-hand and at a distance) signals the same two alternatives of proximity and distance. The porcupine, however, has the emblematic advantage over Fowler’s spiked dog-collar since it was reported to be able to shoot out its quills. The third of the Christian knights, Thomas Erskine, displayed ‘a windmill with her spokes unmoving and windes unblowing on every side’ and the motto Ni sperat immota (He expects nothing unmoved). Again the message seems to allude to the royal journey, though quite how a windmill could be depicted with the sails not turning, or the winds not blowing, is unclear: the emblem depends on its motto to make the point. Far from being becalmed, James’s Danish voyage in 1589 had been beset by storms, which is surely what this emblem refers to.

Fig. 4Emblem showing the Reformed church shining with the full light of revealed religion. Theodore de Beze, Icones, id est verae imagines virorum doctrina simul et pietate illustrium [...] quibus adiectae sunt nonnullae picturae quas Emblemata vocant, Geneva: Jean de Laon, 1580, no. 40.

Fig. 4 Emblem showing the Reformed church shining with the full light of revealed religion. Theodore de Beze, Icones, id est verae imagines virorum doctrina simul et pietate illustrium […] quibus adiectae sunt nonnullae picturae quas Emblemata vocant, Geneva: Jean de Laon, 1580, no. 40.

[12] Of the three Turks, the Earl of Lennox displayed a love emblem showing a heart with one side on fire, the other frozen with ‘on one side Cupid’s torch, on the other Cupid’s thunder’. This, and the motto, Hinc amor, inde metus (Here love, there fear), declares a conventional Petrarchan conceit which would not have been out of place in Fowler’s Tarantula of Love, and which reflects James VI’s stance in these ceremonies as ‘a questing romance hero’ which is well analysed by McManus (McManus 2000: 190-91; and for Tarantula of Love see Verweij 2007). Lord Home’s impresa showed ‘a zodiac with a moon opposite the sun, motto: Quo remotior, lucidior. That is to say, the further the fairer’. The device has no exact equivalent in emblem books, but something of its iconography can perhaps be illustrated by an untitled emblem from the 1580 Icones of Theodore de Bèze. Its emphasis on proximity and distance has to be read, once again, as alluding to the royal voyage.

Fig. 5   Emblem ‘In deprehensum’ (Caught!) illustrating the adage Folio ficulno tenes anguillam (You hold an eel in a fig leaf). Andrea Alciato, Emblemata, Leiden: Plantin, 1591, p. 38.

Fig. 5   Emblem ‘In deprehensum’ (Caught!) illustrating the adage Folio ficulno tenes anguillam (You hold an eel in a fig leaf). Andrea Alciato, Emblemata, Leiden: Plantin 1591: 38.

[13]  Of the three Amazons, all ‘in women’s attire’, the Lord of Buccleuch displayed an impresa showing a crown, an eye, and a portcullis ‘the crowne betokening the power of God, the Eye his providence, and the Portcullis his Protection’ with the motto Clausus tutus ero ‘which were composed in anagram of Walterus Scotus, the Laird of Buccleuch’s name’ (Fowler 1936: 174). Fowler’s taste for anagrams is amply documented in the National Library’s Hawthornden papers, and we should not doubt that he played a major role in devising these imprese for the noble participants in the joust. The second of the Amazons was his co-author of the 1594 Baptism, the Lord of Lindores, whose device was based on a familiar proverb that had already been turned into emblems. Lindores’ device is described as ‘an hand, holding an eel by the tail, alluding to the uncertainty of times, with these words: Ut frustra, sic pantienter’ (As in vain, so patiently). The classical proverbs Cauda tenes anguillam (You hold an eel by the tail) or Folio ficulno tenes anguillam (You hold an eel in a fig leaf) are recorded in Erasmus’s Adagia (1.4.95-96) and had been turned into an emblem by Alciato on capturing a slippery customer; the emblem had been imitated by Thomas Palmer and Geffrey Whitney among others at this date (Bath 1994: 63-64). Lindores’ device certainly goes back to one or other of these sources.

[14]  The actual baptism took place on the third day in the newly-built Chapel Royal which had been rebuilt especially for this baptism and at considerable cost. As Aonghus MacKechnie says, ‘The building looks Florentine, with paired round-arched windows … The doorway is a triumphal arch … originally more complex … but sufficiently intact to denote it as Scotland’s first known building based on formal “correct” use of classical Orders’ (MacKechnie 2000: 163). MacKechnie records that the chapel’s components and proportions were recognised as those of the Temple of Solomon and its design must be attributed to James’s architect, William Schaw, inventor – if David Stevenson is right – of modern Freemasonry (Stevenson 1988). In 1589 Schaw had, like Fowler, accompanied the king on his journey to Denmark to fetch home his bride, a voyage which the great model ship that became the most memorable feature of these indoor ceremonies was designed to commemorate (Stevenson 1997).

[15]  The proceedings then moved into the Great Hall for a ceremonial feast. After a sumptuous first course, a table carrying all sorts of delicacies was drawn into the hall on a large chariot. Six ladies, dressed in satin and tinsel and with loose hair dressed ‘Antica forma,’ stood round the table, presenting what Fowler calls ‘a silent comedy’. Each of these represented an allegorical figure, holding her defining attributes and with a Latin motto on her skirt. The overall theme is one of fertility, fruition and fecundity, thus Ceres appeared holding a sickle and sheaf of corn, with the motto Fundent uberes omnia campi, ‘which is to say the plenteous fields shall afford all things’. Similarly Fecundity appeared with some bushes of poppies ‘which under an hieroglyphic sense, representeth broodiness’ with the motto Felix prole divum, and on the other side of her dress Crescant in mille, ‘The first importing that this countrie is blessed by the child of the goddess, and the second alluding to the King and Queen’s majesties, that their generation may grow into thousands’ (Fowler 1936: 188). This chariot should have been drawn by the king’s tame lion, but because it was feared that this might frighten the company, or itself be frightened by the lights and torches, it was replaced by a blackamoor, who appeared to move it single-handed, though it was in fact moved ‘by secret convoy’ to the Prince’s table where Ceres, Fecundity, Faith, Concord and Perseverence delivered the whole dessert to the court servers.

[16]  It is only with the third course of this feast that we encounter the most elaborate and memorable of the ‘rare shows and singular inventions’ that characterised these festivities. After the chariot was removed there entered ‘a most sumptuous, artificial and well-proportioned ship’, 24 feet long, with a 40-foot mast and ‘the sea under her was lively counterfeit with all colours’ (Fowler 1936: 190). The ship was festooned with emblematic devices and was, we are told, his majesty’s ‘owne invention’ recalling and moralising the king’s voyage to Norway to fetch home his queen. This was by no means the first time that a large model ship had been used in such courtly pageants. Precedents include the Bayonne magnificences, which had featured actual pageant ships sailing on the river Ardour, and the Navarre-Valois wedding in 1572 featured marine chariots encrusted with coral and sea creatures, where Charles IX played the part of Neptune. In 1558 the allegorical ship that had been drawn through the streets of Brussels as part of the obsequies for the death of Emperor Charles V featured his twin pillars with the motto plus oultre and was specifically identified as the vessel of Jason and the Argonauts, who had brought back the golden fleece.

Fig. 6Allegorical ship for the obsequies of Charles V in Brussells, 1558. Engraving from J. and L. Duetecum, Magnifique et somptueuse Pompe funèbre faite aux obsequies et funerailles de tres victorieus emperor Charles V, Antwerp : Plantin, 1559 (Antwerp, Plantin-Moretus Museum, Inv.R.44.8).

Fig. 6   Allegorical ship for the obsequies of Charles V in Brussells, 1558. Engraving from J. and L. Duetecum, Magnifique et somptueuse Pompe funèbre faite aux obsequies et funerailles de tres victorieus emperor Charles V, Antwerp : Plantin, 1559 (Antwerp, Plantin-Moretus Museum, Inv.R.44.8).

Its relevance to James VI’s great ship in Stirling is signalled by Fowler’s own explanation, as he says:

But because this devise carried some morall meaning with it, it shall not be impertinent to this purpose, to discover what is meant thereby.

The Kings Maiestie, having undertaken in such a desperate time, to sayle to Norway, and like a new Jason, to bring his Queene our gracious Lady to this Kingdome … thought it very meet, to followe foorth this his owne invention, that as Neptunus (speaking poetically, and by such fictions, as the like Interludes and actions are accustomed to be decored withal) ioyned the King to the Queene. (Fowler 1936: 193)

[17]  If we are inclined to doubt whether Scotland could possibly have produced any model to compare with such predecessors, we might bear in mind the comment of a later visitor to Stirling who, in 1687, countered any doubt as to the ‘Wit, Learning and Delicacy of the Scottish court at so great a distance of time’ by appealing to ‘several pieces of workmanship used upon that signal occasion, And particularly the Ship yet extant, which I have lately seen in the apartment next to the Great Hall in the Castle of Stirling where that triumphant and royal entertainment was kept’ (Fowler 1940: 70).

[18]  The ship was piloted by an actor playing Neptune, with other actors impersonating classical marine deities Thetis and Triton and, as with the preceding pageant’s emblems of fertility, these were evidently treated as allegorical figures, each marked with a Latin motto to signal – for those who could read it – his or her ‘moral meaning’. Thus Neptune carried the inscription Iunxi atque reduxi (I have joined them and brought them back) to signal that it was the sea that united Scotland’s king and queen before bringing them back to their kingdom. The foresail of the ship bore the legend Quascunque per undas. ‘Which is to say, through quhatsoever seas, or waves, the King’s Majestie intendeth his course … Neptune as God of the sea, shal be favourable to his proceedings’. The marine pageantry at Stirling has clear French precedents. Fowler tells us, for instance, how the sea gods were surrounded by ‘Marine people, as Syrens (above the middle as women, and under as fishes)’ (Fowler 1936: 193). The 1563 ‘magnificences’ at Chenonceaux featured singing sirens and wood nymphs who were abducted by a group of lecherous Satyrs before being rescued by knights. As Roy Strong says, ‘These singing sirens were to be a standard ingredient of the mythology of every set of “magnificences” for the next twenty years’ (Strong 1984: 103).

Fig. 7   Medal of Mary Queen of Scots with the three crowns device, Aliamque moratur (And awaits another). (Edinburgh, National Museums of Scotland).

Fig. 7 Medal of Mary Queen of Scots with the three crowns device, Aliamque moratur (And awaits another). (Edinburgh, National Museums of Scotland).

[19]  If such French precedents and influences remained quite important on the 1594 Stirling baptism we need to ask how they might have reached Scotland. The cultural commerce between Scotland and France in the sixteenth century was, of course, very strong and direct. The Latin Pompae deorum court masque for the 1566 Stirling baptism was written by George Buchanan, who had worked in Paris and Portugal before returning to Scotland with a European reputation. Another Scottish courtier who is much less well known but who had been active in both the Scottish and French courts and, indeed, played his part in designing at least one of the French court festivals was John Gordon, son of the last Catholic Bishop of Galloway. He had been recommended by Mary Queen of Scots to serve as Gentleman of the bedchamber to French kings Charles IX, Henri III and Henri IV, and in 1581 Henri III held a festival to celebrate the marriage of duc Anne de Joyeuse to Marguerite de Vaudémont. This consisted of five hours of entertainments dominated by the Balet comique de la Royne. Designed by Balthasar de Beaujoyeulx, born Italian Baltazarini Belgioioso, who came to France c.1550 as a virtuoso violinist, he was patronised by Henri II for whom he became valet de chambre (cf David Rizzio), a position he retained in the service successively of Catherine de Medicis and Marie Stuart, followed by Charles IX and Henri III. Gordon was friendly with Brantôme, Ronsard, and d’Aubigné, and moved in the circle of courtiers surrounding the duc d’Alençon. In 1582 he wrote the festival album explaining the meaning and allegorical symbolism of the Balet comique de la Royne, which became the prototype of what we now call opera. The importance of this work, with its mixture of mythology, music, poetry and painting, emblematics and iconography, to the history of European musicology and theatre has, indeed been widely recognised.[5] As Nuccio Ordine says, its innovations were quickly noted by foreign residents and ambassadors in Paris, whose descriptions ‘ne laissent aucun doute sur la curiosité que tels événements ont éveillée chez les souverains des royaumes voisins’ (Ordine 2011: 21). It certainly provided a precedent for the Edinburgh baptism in its marine iconography, for in Paris king Henri arrived in a ship and in the Ballet he is presented as rex nauta who has steered the ship of state through troubled waters of religious sectarianism. The king is characterised as a new Ulysses who has triumphed over the poisonous enchantments of Circe, whom the hero encounters, of course, on his voyage home at the end of the Trojan War. The collection marine deities who surrounded the great model ship in Stirling do not, for obvious reasons, include the evil temptress Circe, and McManus’s claim that ‘The queen consort [Anna] is a nexus of otherness: as a necessary threat and a potential bounty, her nature, the shifting quality of which aligns her with the transformative power of the mythological figure of Circe, is celebrated in the baptismal entertainments’ must be dismissed as a piece of feminist special pleading (McManus 2000: 183). The closing pages of the printed description of the Balet comique de la Royne contain an appendix of no fewer than four different explanations, by various authors, of the meaning of the Circe mythography, of which the last was written by John Gordon. Entitled Autre allegorie de la Circé, it tells us that it was written by sieur Gordon, escocois, Gentilhomme de la Chambre du Roy. I have not found evidence that John Gordon had any connection with the Stirling baptism, though he later became a firm favourite of James VI who recalled him to England in 1603 and made him Dean of Salisbury Cathedral. Gordon’s role as an intermediary for the transmission of ideas and images between the different courts is, however, suggested by the fact that Adrian d’Amboise, in his Devises royales (1621), tells us that it was a Scotsman named Gordon who had recommended the device of three crowns, with the motto Manet ultima caelo (The last remains in heaven) to Henri III of France. The device went back to a medal minted for Mary Queen of Scots in 1560 (Bath 2009: 60-63; Ordine 2011: 184-91).

Fig. 8   Triumphal arch for Henri II’s entry into Paris, 1549, showing Henry as Typhis, pilot of the Argonauts flanked by his guiding stars, Castor and Pollux. Woodcut, C’est l’ordre qui a este tenu à la nouvelle et joyeuse entrée… , Paris 1549 (Warburg Institute).

Fig. 8 Triumphal arch for Henri II’s entry into Paris, 1549, showing Henry as Typhis, pilot of the Argonauts flanked by his guiding stars, Castor and Pollux. Woodcut, C’est l’ordre qui a este tenu à la nouvelle et joyeuse entrée… , Paris 1549 (Warburg Institute).

Fig. 9Pinkie House, Musselburgh, emblem Sit Virtus Typhis (Let Typhis be Virtue) from painted ceiling of Long Gallery, c. 1613.

Fig. 9 Pinkie House, Musselburgh, emblem Sit Virtus Typhis (Let Typhis be Virtue) from painted ceiling of Long Gallery, c. 1613.

[20] Of course none of this confirms my claims for direct French influence on the Stirling baptism, even if it does suggest the knowledge which at least some Scots had of French court festivals at this time. The continuities between French, Scots and English court festivals are, indeed, suggested by the fact that Beaujoyeulx’s Balet comique based on the legend of Circe was adapted by Aurelian Townsend for the court masque Tempe Restored designed by Inigo Jones and performed at Whitehall Palace on Shrove Tuesday 1632. It is, however, worth recalling that the Balet comique celebrated the king as rex nauta, or second Jason, sailing the ship of the Argonauts safely out of the storms of religious and political conflict guided by the twin stars Castor and Pollux and their pilot Typhis. As McManus says, ‘The Ovidian [Argonauts] myth operates as a narrative archetype for many Renaissance court entertainments and their documentation … the test of Jason’s power against the forces of a distant enchanted land underlies James VI’s representation as the romantic questing hero’ (2000: 194). The same symbolism had been used, for instance, on a triumphal arch erected for Henri II’s entry into Paris in 1549, portraying Henry II as Typhis, along with Castor and Pollux. Scottish familiarity with this iconography is evidenced by one of the emblems which Chancellor Alexander Seton painted in his remarkable neo-Stoic gallery at Pinkie House in 1613, for here we see Typhis guiding the ship of state propelled by the Goddess Fortuna (Bath 2003, ch.4). None of this proves any direct influence of French iconography on the Scottish court, but we might remember that it was William Fowler who preserved the fullest records of Mary Stuart’s embroideries on her Bed of State, which was covered in emblems including the three-crowns Manet ultima caelo emblem (Bath 2007; Bath 2008: 42-47). And it was Fowler who left these records to his son-in-law, William Drummond, who eventually passed them on to Ben Jonson after Jonson had walked to Scotland to find out more about Scottish culture. It was Jonson who wrote the majority of the Stuart court masques, with Inigo Jones, in England – masques which make notable use of emblems. Jonson had, in fact, asked Fowler on his return to London to send him a description, not of the emblems on the embroideries but of these very inscriptions at Pinkie (Bath and Craig 2010). Alexander Seton, First Earl of Dunfermline, who built this gallery in 1613, had close connections with architect, William Schaw, the architect who built the new chapel royal for Prince Henry’s baptism in 1594. Indeed it was Seton who wrote the Latin epitaph for Schaw, praising his learning and skills in the art of architecture, which one can still read on his monument in Dunfermline Abbey.[6] Seton’s emblem of Typhis copies continental prints, and should not be seen as any direct reminiscence of the Stirling baptism, but the extent of shared iconography between this ceiling and the court festivals argues for a community of taste and humanist learning which defines the context in which both must have been invented and received at this period in Scotland.


[1]  This over simplification was challenged notably by the contributors to Gent 1995, see especially the articles by Lucy Gent, Deborah Howard, and Christy Anderson.[back to text]

[2]  The literature is extensive but see especially Anglo 1969; McGowan 1973; Graham and McAllister Johnson 1979; Mulryne, Watanabe-O’Kelly and Shewring 2004; Watanabe-O’Kelly 2000; Knecht 2008.[back to text]

[3]  Fowler 1594, printed in Edinburgh: Robert Waldegrave, 1594 (STC 11214.6), and in London: Peter Short, 1594 (STC 11214.7). Both versions were reprinted by the Scottish Text Society, The Works of William Fowler, ed. Henry W. Meikle, vol. 2, 1936 (Edinburgh: Blackwood): 169-95.[back to text]

[4] Details of these can be found in Fowler 1940, ‘Introduction’, xliv-xlv. For emblems on the royal bed of state see Bath 2008: 17-21, 147-57. For Fowler more generally see especially Petrina 2009.[back to text]

[5]  McGowan 1963. For Beaujoyeulx, Gordon, and the Balet comique de la Royne see Ordine 2011: 20-48, 184-91.[back to text]

[6]  As Michael Pearce has recently shown (Pearce 2012), William Schaw was responsible, as master of works, for organising the entertainments to which Ulric, duke of Holstein was treated on his visit to Scotland in 1598, when the duke was banqueted, with Alexander Seton in attendance, at the redecorated house of Ninian MacMorran in Riddle’s Court, Edinburgh, and on an extensive sightseeing tour of Scotland. The entertainments were designed to secure the influence of Denmark and other north German states in gaining imperial support for James’s accession to the English throne: the Riddle’s Court painted ceiling displays the double-headed imperial eagle and Scottish thistle to this end. As Pearce notes, ‘Schaw’s epitaph at Dunfermline Abbey describes him as “master of ceremony”’ (p. 21) – the close association of architecture with court ceremonial was by no means unique to the work of Inigo Jones. Schaw, together with Fowler, had accompanied James on the king’s marital voyage to Denmark in 1589.[back to text]



Anglo, Sydney. 1969. Spectacle, Pageantry, and Early Tudor Policy (Oxford: Clarendon Press)

Bath, Michael. 1994. Speaking Pictures: English Emblem Books and Renaissance Culture (London: Longman)

_____. 2003. Renaissance Decorative Painting in Scotland (Edinburgh: National Galleries of Scotland Publishing)

_____. 2007. ‘Ben Jonson, William Fowler and the Pinkie Ceiling’. Architectural Heritage, 18: 73-86.

_____. 2008. Emblems for a Queen: The Needlework of Mary Queen of Scots (London: Archetype), 17-21, 147-57.

_____. 2009. ‘Symbols of Sovereignty: Political Emblems of Mary Queen of Scots’, in Guiseppe Gascione and S. Mansueto, ed. Immagine e Potere nel Rinascimento europeo (Milan: Ennerre), 53-67

Bath, Michael and Jennifer Craig. 2010. ‘What Happened to Mary Stuart’s Bed of State?’ Emblematica, 18: 279-88

Bowers, Rick. 2005. ‘James VI, Prince Henry, and A True Reportarie of the Baptism at Stirling’. Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme, 29, 4: 3-22   <http://jps.library.utoronto.ca/index.php/renref/article/view/9056/6021>, accessed 25/02/12.

Calendar of State Papers relating to Scotland and Mary, Queen of Scots, 1547-1603, ed. Joseph Bain (Edinburgh 1898)

Fowler, William. 1594. A True Reportarie of the Most Triumphant, and Royal Accomplishment of the Baptisme of the Most Excellent. Right High, and Mightie Prince, Frederick Henry; By the Grace of God. Prince of  Scotland. Solemnized the 30 Day of August, 1594 (Edinburgh: Robert Waldegrave, 1594, STC 11214.6) and (London: Peter Short. 1594, STC 11214.7)

_____. 1936. The Works of William Fowler, ed. Henry W. Meikle, vol. 2 (Edinburgh: Blackwood)

_____. 1940. The Works of William Fowler, ed. Henry W. Meikle, vol. 3 (Edinburgh: Blackwood)

Gent, Lucy ed. 1995. Albion’s Classicism: The Visual Art in Britain 1550-1660 (New-Haven: Yale UP)

Graham, Victor E. and W. McAllister Johnson. 1979. The Royal tour of France by Charles IX and Catherine de’ Medici: Festivals and Entries, 1564-6 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press)

Knecht, Robert J. 2008. The French Renaissance Court (New Haven: Yale University Press)

Lausund, Olav. 1992. ‘Splendour at the Danish Court: The Coronation of Christian IV’, in J. R. Mulryne and Margaret Shewring, ed. Italian Renaissance Festivals and their European Influence (Lampeter: Edwin Mellen), 289-310

Lynch, Michael. 1990. ‘Queen Mary’s Triumph: the Baptismal Celebrations at Stirling in December 1566. The Scottish Historical Review, 69: 1-21

_____. 2000. ‘Court ceremony and ritual during the personal reign of James VI’, in Julian Goodare and Lynch, ed. The Reign of James VI (E Linton: Tuckwell), 71-92

_____. 2003. ‘The Reassertion of Princely Power in Scotland: The reigns of Mary Queen of Scots and King James VI’ in Princes and Princely Culture 1450-1650, ed Gosman, MacDonald and Vanderjagd (Leiden: Brill), 199-238

MacKechnie, Aonghus. 2000. ‘James VI’s architects and their architecture’, in Goodare and Lynch, ed. The Reign of James VI. (E Linton: Tuckwell), 154-169

McGowan, Margaret M. 1963. L’art du ballet de cour en France (Paris: Éditions CNRS)

_____. 1973. L’entrée de Henri II à Rouen, 1555 (Amsterdam: Theatrum Orbis Terrarum)

McManus, Clare. 2000. ‘Marriage and the Performance of the Romance Quest: Anne of Denmark and the Stirling Baptismal Celebrations for Prince Henry’, in A Palace in the Wild: Essays of Vernacular Culture and Humanism in Late-Medieval and Renaissance Scotland, ed. L. R.J. R. Houwen, A. A. MacDonald, and S. L. Mapstone (Leuven: Peeters, 2000), 175-98.

Mennie Shire, Helena. 1969. Song, Dance and Poetry of the Court of Scotland under King James VI (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press)

Mulryne, J.R., Helen Watanabe-O’Kelly, Margaret Shewring, eds. 2004.  Europa Triumphans: Court and Civic Festivals in Early Modern Europe (London: Ashgate)

Ordine, Nuccio. 2011. Trois couronnes pour un roi; la devise d’Henri III et ses mystères. (Paris: Les Belles Lettres)

Pearce, Michael. 2012. ‘Riddle’s Court: the Banquet, the Renaissance Painted Ceiling and Diplomacy in 1598’. History Scotland 12, 4 (July/August): 20-27.

Petrina, Alessandra. 2009. Machiavelli in the British Isles: Two Early Modern Translations of  The Prince (London: Ashgate)

Stevenson, David. 1988. The Origins of Freemasonry: Scotland’s Century 1590-1710 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press)

_____. 1997. Scotland’s Last Royal Wedding: The Marriage of James VI and Anne of Denmark (Edinburgh: John Donald)

Strong, Roy. 1984. Art and Power: Renaissance Festivals 1450-1650 (Woodbridge: Boydell Press)

Thomas, Andrea. 2004. Princelie Majestie: the Court of James V of Scotland, 1528-1542 (Edinburgh: Tuckwell)

Verweij, Sebastiaan. 2007. ‘The Manuscripts of William Fowler: A Revaluation of The Tarantula of Love, A Sonnet Sequence, and Of Death’. Scottish Studies Review 8: 9-23

Watanabe-O’Kelly, Helen. 2000. Festivals and Ceremonies: A Bibliography of Works Relating to Court, Civic and Religious Festivals in Europe, 1500-1800 (London: Mansell)

Whitney, Geffrey. 1586. A Choice of Emblemes (Leiden: Plantin)

Young, Alan. 1987. Tudor and Jacobean Tournaments (London: George Philip)

_____. 1988. The English Tournament Imprese (New York: AMS Press)

Andrew Bairhum, Giovanni Ferrerio and the ‘Lighter Style of Painting’

Andrew Bairhum, Giovanni Ferrerio and the ‘Lighter Style of Painting’

Michael Bath

[1]  The name of Giovanni Ferrerio crops up from time to time in recurrent debates on the question of whether Scotland ever enjoyed a northern Renaissance, most recently by Jane Stevenson and Peter Davidson in their discussion, in this journal, of what they call ‘the continuing problem of the Scottish Renaissance’ (Stevenson and Davidson 2009: 82-3). The Scottish contributions and European connections of this Italian scholar, who migrated several times between Scotland, Paris and his native Piedmont during the 1530s and 1540s, have been well studied in a number of ground-breaking articles by John Durkan, which clearly establish Ferrerio’s role in helping to initiate what Durkan calls ‘the beginnings of humanism in Scotland’ (Durkan 1953, Durkan 1981).

[2]  Born near Turin in 1502, Ferrerio always described himself as Piedmontese (‘Pedemontanus’), enrolling at the University of Paris in 1525, where he worked on an edition of Ficino’s translations of Plato. In Paris he met Robert Reid, abbot-designate of Kinloss, who invited him to Scotland to spend three years at the court of James V, in Edinburgh and in Perth, before taking up his duties, in 1531, as tutor to the monks at Kinloss Abbey, where he instituted a syllabus which included texts by Lefèvre d’Etaples, Melanchthon and Erasmus. In Scotland he developed friendships with such Scots as Reid and Hector Boece, whom he had first met in Paris in 1527 when Boece was engaged in publication of his Scotorvm historiae a prima gentis origine, the pioneering history of the Scots for which Ferrerio was eventually to write some additional chapters. Boece (c.1465-1536) had himself studied in Paris in the closing decades of the fifteenth century (c.1485-1497), when he had served as regent of the University, and it was in those years that he had bought the copy of Marsilio Ficino’s De triplici vita which, Stevenson and Davidson argue, influenced his layout of the buildings of the University of Aberdeen on cosmological principles after he had become the university’s first, founding, Principal in the 1490s. Ferrerio’s work on Ficino must have fostered this friendship. On returning to Paris, 1537-41, he acted as corrector for university publisher Michel Vascosan, who published several of Ferrerio’s own scholarly works, in one of which he comments on the extraordinary liberalisation and expansion of the humanist curriculum that had taken place in the university of Paris in the years since he last studied there (Durkan 1981: 187). Reid was determined to bring Ferrerio back to Scotland, securing him a pension of forty pounds which Ferrerio continued to receive for many years after his return to Kinloss, resuming his duties as tutor from 1541 to 1545, during which time he wrote his Historia Abbatum de Kynlos. Ferrerio’s correspondence with Conrad Gessner in Geneva in the 1550s is acknowledged for a number of the illustrations which appear in Gessner’s monumental Historia animalium (1551-60), including several of those which supplied patterns for the present Oxburgh embroideries executed by Mary Queen of Scots.[1]

[3]  Although mostly remembered for his role as tutor to the monks of Kinloss abbey and his continuation of Hector Boece’s history, the fuller investigation of his circles of friendship and correspondence reveals a picture in which, far from being merely ‘a fairly marginal figure at the remote edge of Scottish life’, Ferrerio emerges as a potentially important agent for the transmission of leading humanist values and ideas between Scotland and elsewhere in Europe, and may specifically ‘have acted as a vehicle for the entry of Italian ideas’ (Durkan 1980: 181). It is one such Italian idea that concerns me in this paper, for art historians have occasionally noted something Ferrerio says, in his history of the abbey of Kinloss, about an otherwise unknown painter called Andrew Bairhum who, as early as 1538, redecorated the abbot’s lodgings in what he calls ‘the lighter style of painting which is now most fashionable throughout Scotland’ (pictura leviore quae nunc est per Scotiam receptissima, Ferrerio 1839: 50-51). Previous art-historical discussion of Ferrerio’s comment has tended to focus on the identity of Andrew Bairhum (e.g. Brydall 1889: 57), but I suggest that it is the expression Ferrerio uses to describe this style of painting that is of the greatest interest. As Duncan Macmillan notes, the expression suggests that ‘the fashion for painted interiors that we know from surviving painted ceilings prevailed in Scotland in the later sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, was already established in the reign of James V’ (Macmillan 1990: 36). My discovery that the same Latin expression (pictura leviore) is used on the title-plate of an influential set of Italian ornament prints, produced in Rome at exactly the period Ferrerio was writing, now sheds further light on the exact meaning of this expression, on Ferrerio’s role as a channel for the entry of Italian ideas, and on the wider history of the visual arts at this period in Scotland. The title advertises a set of engravings illustrating ‘The lighter and – as can be seen – extemporary paintings which are commonly known as grotesques, which the ancient Romans used as decoration in their dining rooms and other more private parts of their buildings, which have been variously selected and brought together with great exactitude and care from many vaulted chambers and ancient walls’ (Leviores et (ut videtur) extemporaneae picturae quas grotteschas vulgo vocant quibus Romani illi antiqui ad triclinia aliaque secretiora aedum loca exornanda utebantur e pluribus concamerationibus parietibusque antiquis varie desumptae ac summa fide diligentiaque in unum redactae). (Fig. 1) It thus identifies ‘the lighter style of painting’ explicitly with that development in the decorative arts which we call ‘grotesque’.

Fig. 1. Title page for a set of grotesque prints, Leviores picturae, undated and unsigned though now thought to have been published in Rome by Antonio Lafrery (1512-77) sometime after 1544. The title page refers to a series of nineteen engravings of grotesques often ascribed to Enea Vico but now thought to be reverse copies of Vico’s originals, 1541-42. London: Victoria and Albert Museum.

[4]  This set of decorative prints and, indeed, this particular title-page with its clear and informed explanation of the historical basis and nature of the grotesque style have often been cited in modern histories of the applied arts at this period in Europe, when the association of grottesco both with all’antica models of design in the decoration of major buildings and also with the influential development of a distinctive type of ornament prints was particularly close.[2] As Nicole Dacos says, this long and ambitious title-plate makes a clear allusion to the Golden Palace of Nero, in whose excavated grottoes artists in the closing years of the fifteenth century had famously discovered the most authentic models of a classical decorative style (Dacos 2001: 79). From then until at least the nineteenth century these supplied the most authoritative patterns for any designs in the applied arts that aspired towards the antique, which means that if the grotesque style was already becoming widespread in Scotland as early as 1538, then we will have to revise most of our received ideas about Scottish visual culture in the first half of the sixteenth century. Although Ferrerio tells us that 1538 was when Andrew Bairhum was summoned to decorate the Abbot’s lodgings in this style, he also says the work occupied Bairhum for three years and the very next sentence, describing Abbot Robert Reid’s move to Orkney, begins ‘Hoc anno 1544 …’. Ferrerio was evidently writing his account of Kinloss at, or shortly after, this time (he mentions this date at various other points in his account of the recent history of the abbey, but nothing later than this). We may well wonder, however, whether this Italianate style of authentically ‘antique’ painting could really have been widespread (receptissima) in Scotland at such an early date, or if not what else Giovanni Ferrerio could have meant by the expression ‘pictura leviore’. Can we be sure he is using it in the same sense as the Italian engraver? Could he possibly have seen the engravings concerned, or is he using the expression in some looser and more generic sense? For any answer to these questions the dates are crucial, but unfortunately the history of this influential set of prints is exceptionally complex and difficult, and until we can sort that out we are unlikely to be able to answer those questions.

[5]  There were, as it happens, at least two different early sets of these prints, one of which evidently copies the other (with variations), and prints scholars have not yet succeeded in deciding which is the earlier. In one of the sets the majority of plates are, indeed, signed and dated 1541 or 1542, carrying the initials both of Enea Vico and also those of Roman engraver and prints publisher Tommaso Barlacchi. Ever since Adam Bartsch produced his monumental catalogue of engravings in the Imperial collection in Vienna (Bartsch 1803-1821, see 1854-1876 edn., vol. 15: 467-490), it has been normal to ascribe the twenty-three grotesques in this series to the eighteen-year-old Enea Vico, who was apprenticed to Barlacchi at this time. However, a different set, lacking four of Vico’s designs, carries no dates or signatures, varying some details and reversing the orientation. In their book on the history of ornament prints, Rudolf Berliner and Gerhart Egger insist that the unsigned and undated versions are the earlier set, and that those carrying Enea Vico’s initials must have been copied on the orders of his employer, Barlacchi. This assumption is shared by Michael Snodin and Maurice Howard in their Ornament: A Social History (1996: 39-40). However, more recently, Elizabeth Miller has produced a fuller account of the complex publication history of this influential prints series. Her authoritative catalogue of Sixteenth-Century Italian Ornament Prints in the Victoria and Albert Museum (1999: 98-101) identifies at least three different issues of the series, only one of which is the signed and dated set of twenty-three unnumbered plates produced in Rome by Vico and Barlacchi in 1541-42. This set has no title page, since the plate corresponding to our Leviores picturae title page lacks the inscription. Two further sets consisting of nineteen plates are anonymous, and both of these include the Leviores picturae title page, but no signatures. Of these one set is numbered 1-16, with the three extra plates being printed as unnumbered pairs on single sheets: Miller identifies this set with a Libro de Grottesche which is identified in the stocklist circulated c. 1573 by Roman prints publisher Antonio Lafrery. The evidence for this ascription is largely circumstantial, though it certainly corresponds to Lafrery’s normal publishing habits, which relied heavily on copies: ‘Clearly Lafrery’s methods of building up his business routinely involved publishing anonymous copies of works by named engravers’ (Miller 1999: 100). This numbered set reissues the other, unnumbered, set which Lafrery would, presumably, have printed a few years earlier, but certainly ‘no earlier than 1544, when Lafrery was first active’ (Miller 1999, 99). This account, therefore, gives priority to the set produced 1541-42 by Vico and Barlacchi, followed by an unnumbered and anonymous set of reverse copies published in Rome after 1544 by Lafrery, who reissued it in a numbered sequence which he advertised around 1573 under the title Libro de Grottesce. This reconstruction of the publication history produces a date for the earliest appearance of the Leviores picturae title page that is almost certainly too late for it to have been seen by Ferrerio when writing his History of the Abbey of Kinloss in Scotland in 1544-45.

[6]  There is only one piece of evidence that might still raise questions over Elizabeth Miller’s otherwise persuasive reconstruction of this publication history, for in a recent article on these engravings, Nicole Dacos – pioneer of modern scholars of the grotesque – notes that Enea Vico, in the signed 1541-42 series, makes all the human figures left-handed.[3] This is of little consequence when the figures are engaged in their fantastic activities or erotic games, but it is highly problematic and unconventional to find a god steering his chariot or an archer drawing his bow left-handed.[4] This would suggest that the left-handed versions are the later copies, and that the anonymous and undated leviores picturae series are the earlier originals, which could well therefore have been published in the 1530s, early enough to have been seen by Ferrerio. If the jury is still out on the dating and priority of these different sets of prints then Giovanni Ferrerio’s use of the same expression might itself offer some support for this priority. The engravings certainly had a long posterity and wide influence, being copied by Jacques Androuet Ducerceau in 1550, and influencing successors such as Jan Vredeman de Vries in 1565. Their use as patterns has been traced in the painted decoration of various buildings ranging from the Prior’s lodgings in Assisi, in the Palazzo Farnese at Caprarole, in the Château de Chareil in Auvergne.[5] Can we really believe, however, that there were enough high-status buildings for this cutting-edge European Renaissance style of internal decoration to have become widespread in Scotland as early as 1540? If so, it would be telling evidence for the revisionist histories of Scottish architecture in this period that have been advanced by such scholars as Deborah Howard, Aonghus MacKechnie and, above all, Charles McKean.

[7]  We might certainly recall the sheer number of buildings recorded on the maps of Timothy Pont. As McKean puts it, ‘if there were indeed buildings approximately where Pont placed them in the late sixteenth century … Scotland was well provided with country seats, many of considerable splendour’. Moreover, as he argues, the period c. 1500-1542, which he characterises as Early Renaissance, was when a large number of these houses appear to have been constructed. This was followed by thirty years of French-educated transformation under Mary of Guise and her daughter, Mary Queen of Scots, when, as Bishop John Leslie recalls in his retrospective History of Scotland:

Here is to be remembered that their was mony new ingynis and devysis, asweill of bigging of paleceis, abilyementis, as of banqueting and of menis behaviour first begun and used in Scotland at this time, after the fassione quilk thay had sene in France. Although it seemed to be varray comelie and beautifull, yit it was more superfluous and voluptuous than the realm of Scotland might bear or sustain. (Leslie 1830: 8, cited McKean 2001: 18)

The idea that any civilised ideas only entered the design of Scottish buildings with the Reformation in 1560 or, more radically, once the Scots had absorbed more enlightened English tastes following the 1603 Union of Crowns, is now wholly untenable, and a good case can be made for the development of the country seat in Scotland occurring ‘midway through the Marian period – the time when Scotland was under the influence of Mary of Guise and her daughter Mary Queen of Scots’ (McKean 2001: 8). The sheer number of surviving examples of decorative painting on walls and ceilings that I was able to document in my book Renaissance Decorative Painting in Scotland makes the likelihood that such painting ‘in the lighter style’ was already widespread as early as 1540 by no means improbable.

[8]  But do we have any evidence for the circulation of European pattern books and ornament prints in Scotland at such an early date? The sheer number of print sources that I was able to identify as the patterns used by Scottish house owners in the later-sixteenth and early-seventeenth century is surely suggestive (Bath 2003). Among the earliest surviving artefacts in Scotland that have been shown to copy European engravings are two of the statues of classical gods – Jupiter and Venus – among the extraordinarily ambitious and diverse statuary which enriches three of the external elevations of James V’s new palace at Stirling, whose building coincides almost exactly, 1538-42, with Andrew Bairhum’s work at Kinloss and with Ferrerio’s writing. Those two statues have long been known to copy prints from Hans Burgkmair’s Seven Planets series.[6] The earliest surviving examples of decorative painting to be found in Scotland are in a wing of the house at Kinneil, Bo’ness which James Hamilton, 2nd Earl of Arran, cousin to Mary Queen of Scots and heir to the throne, enriched and redecorated at public expense during the years 1542-54, when he was Regent of Scotland. The surviving painting of this period at Kinneil probably dates from 1553-55, and is of a richness and sophistication which can only have been the product of a well-established national tradition. Although it is chiefly noted for its biblical Good Samaritan sequence, this is surrounded by trompe-l’oeil classical pilasters, medallions, and antique-work which must go back to continental print-sources, and are certainly in a lighter all’antiqua style of painting which is handled with some assurance. (Fig. 2) The coffered oak ceiling to this ‘Parable Room’ (Fig. 3), moreover, takes its pattern from the most influential pre-Palladian guidebook to classical architecture, Sebastiano Serlio’s Regole generali di architectura, Book IV of which (the first volume to be published) had appeared in 1537. (Fig. 4) This discovery ought, finally, to banish whatever doubts we might still have about the immediacy of Scottish access to and familiarity with continental prints sources from an early period. None of these sources, so far, are what we should properly describe as grottesco, but they are all examples of classical antique decoration. Any doubt as to the extent to which artistic and architectural tastes aspired to imitate strictly ‘classical’ design models from a period that begins some time before the mid-sixteenth century in Scotland ought to be dispelled by these tell-tale examples. They make it seem at least possible that Scottish houses, as early as 1540, might have been so frequently decorated with grotesque painting as to impress an educated and well-travelled Italian immigrant.

Fig. 2. Kinneil House, Bo’ness (West Lothian), detail of mural painting in Parable Room, executed for James Hamilton, Earl of Arran, c. 1553-56. Photo author.

Fig. 3. Kinneil House, Bo’ness, coffered oak ceiling executed for Regent Arran, c. 1542-56: the pattern copies a design from Serlio. Photo author.

Fig. 4. Patterns for classically-inspired Renaissance ceilings, woodcut, Regole generali di architettura, 1537, book IV of Sebastiano Serlio’s architectural treatise. Glasgow University Library, Department of Special Collections.

Fig. 5. Grotesque decoration copying details from Vredeman de Vries, Grottesco (c. 1565), and other sources, painted ceiling, tempera on board, from Prestongrange (East Lothian), 1581, when the house was owned by Mark Kerr; the ceiling has been reassembled at Merchiston Tower, Edinburgh, on the Napier University Morningside campus. Photo RCAHMS.

[9]  By 1581 we certainly have the compelling evidence of Mark Kerr’s ‘dreamwork’ at Prestongrange to convince us that the grotesque style was, by then, fully assimilated into the rich Scottish tradition of fully Renaissance domestic decorative painting. (Fig. 5) As I show in my book, the painted ceiling from this house makes extensive use of a set of ornament prints which stands as a direct successor to the Leviores picturae series, namely the Grottesco in diversche manieren designed by Jan Vredeman de Vries and printed in Antwerp, c. 1565-71 (Bath 2003, 104-21, Apted 1966, pl. 42). It is not just the sheer accomplishment of this painting at Prestongrange that stands out, but also the fact that the same set of prints was used by Robert Melville at Rossend, Fife, probably in preparation for James VI’s royal visit in 1617 (Bath 2003, 43-52, 258-60). The Rossend ceiling can now be seen on display in the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. Grotesque painting survives at several other sites and although no continental print sources have yet been identified for these we can be in no doubt that – well before the end of the sixteenth-century – it was a widespread and familiar part of the decorative painters’ available repertoire of styles. The idea that it had already become fashionable as early as 1540 thus begins to seem a little less ridiculous: indeed we might conclude that it was only what Charles McKean has called the ‘nineteenth-century cult of rubblemania’ and its ‘ratcheting up the romanticism’ of early Scottish architecture (McKean 2001: 6) that ever made it seem so. [7] As Geoffrey Harpham puts it, ‘For decades after the initial discoveries, the appearance of the antique style was often the first sign that the Renaissance had arrived’ (Harpham 1982: 34). That would be as true in Scotland as it was anywhere else in Europe.


[1] For these see my Emblems for a Queen: The Needlework of Mary Queen of Scots (London: Archetype Publications, 2008), 78, 83-5, 124. [back to text]

[2] The standard work on grotesque remains Nicole Dacos 1969. [back to text]

[3] Dacos 2002: 79 : ‘on n’a pas encore remarqué qu’en inversant les gravures, Vico a rendu tous ses personages gauchers’. [back to text]

[4] For these left-handed figures see Miller 1999, cat. 33b pl. 6, 33b pl. 13; 33c pl. 14(l) shows a conventionally right-handed archer in the version supposedly published by Lafrery, whereas Vico’s reversal of 1541/42 (unillustrated in Miller) makes him left-handed. [back to text]

[5] See Dacos 2001: 82 and, for Chareil, A. Regond, Peinture murale du xvie siècle en Auvergne (1983 : 328-9). [back to text]

[6] See RCHMS Stirlingshire: 220-23, pl. 71, 72, 76, 78; I am not convinced that the two further, badly eroded, statues at Stirling copy Burgkmair’s engravings of Sol and Saturn, and Helena Shire’s argument that the iconography of James V’s palace at Stirling followed an extended programme of sun symbolism is tendentious and unconvincing (Shire 1966). Burgkmair’s engravings of Mars and Venus from the same set also supplied the patterns for the representation of these two figures on Henry VIII’s wonderful writing desk, now in the Victoria and Albert Museum. [back to text]

[7] McKean’s recent ‘What Kind of Renaissance Town was Dundee?’ (Chapter 1 in McKean, Harris and Whatley 2009: 1-32) is wholly relevant, as its title suggests, to the wider issue of whether Scotland enjoyed any kind of Renaissance. McKean identifies various books published in Britain and abroad, including what can only be a copy of Whitney’s Emblemes (1586) in the library of Dundee merchant ship owner, David Wedderburn, and which are mentioned in his account book in 1621. Although Wedderburn also, apparently, imported paintings from the Netherlands and France (McKean, Harris and Whatley, p.21), these dates are rather too late to tell us anything about the early use of a grottesco style in sixteenth-century Scotland. [back to text]


Apted, M. R, The Painted Ceilings of Scotland 1550-1650 (Edinburgh: HM Stationery Office, 1966)

Bartsch, Adam von, Le peintre graveur, 21 vols (Leipzig : J.A. Barth, 1854-1876, 1st edn. Vienna, 1803-1821)

Bath, Michael, Renaissance Decorative Painting in Scotland (Edinburgh: National Museums of Scotland Publications, 2003)

Bath, Michael, Emblems for a Queen: The Needlework of Mary Queen of Scots (London: Archetype Publications, 2008)

Berliner, Rudolf, and Gerhart Egger, Ornamentale Vorlageblätter des 15. bis 19. Jahrhunderts, 3 vols (Leipzig, 1926, repr. Munich: Klinkhardt und Biermann, c.1981)

Brydall, Robert, Art in Scotland (Edinburgh: Blackwood, 1889)

Dacos, Nicole, La découverte de la Domus Aurea et la formation des grotesques à la renaissance (London : Warburg Institute, 1969).

Dacos, Nicole, ‘Leviores et extemporaneae picturae … quas grotteschas vulgo vocant. Du profane chez Domenico Fiorentino’, in S. Poeschel, R. Steiner and R. Wegner, eds., Heilige und Profane Bilder: Festschrift für Herwarth Röttgen (Weimar: Verlag und Datenbank für Geisteswissenschaft, 2001), 79-96.

Durkan, John, ‘The Beginnings of Humanism in Scotland’, Innes Review, 4 (1953), 5-24

Durkan, John, ‘Giovanni Ferrerio, Gesner and French Affairs’, Bibliothèque d’humanisme et renaissance: travaux et documents, 42 (1980), 349-60

Durkan, John, ‘Giovanni Ferrerio, Humanist: His Influence in Sixteenth-Century Scotland’, in K. Robbins, ed., Religion and Humanism (Oxford: Blackwell, 1981), 181-94

Ferrerio, Giovanni, Historia Abbatum de Kynlos (Edinburgh: Bannatyne Club, 1839)

Harpham, G., On the Grotesque: Strategies of Contradiction in Art and Literature (Princeton, 1982)

Leslie, John, The historie of Scotland wrytten in Latin by Jhone Leslie and translated in Scottish by James Dalrymple, ed. E.G. Cody (Edinburgh: 1885-1890)

Macmillan, Duncan, Scottish Art 1460-1990 (Edinburgh: Mainstream, 1990

McKean, Charles, The Scottish Chateau: The Country House of Renaissance Scotland (Stroud: Sutton Publishing, 2001)

McKean, Charles, Bob Harris and Christopher A. Whatley (eds.), Dundee: Renaissance to Enlightenment (Dundee: Dundee University Press, 2009)

Miller, Elizabeth, Sixteenth-Century Ornament Prints in the Victoria and Albert Museum (London: V&A Publications, 1999)

RCAHMS, Stirlingshire (Edinburgh: Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, 1963)

Regond, Annie, La peinture murale du XVIe Siècle dans la région Auvergne (Clermont-Ferrand : Institut d’Etudes du Massif Central, 1983)

Shire, Helena M., ‘The King in His House: Three Architectural Artefacts belonging to the Reign of James V’, in J. Hadley Williams, ed., Stewart Style 1513-1542: Essays on the Court of James V (E. Linton: Tuckwell, 1966), 62-96

Alessandra Petrina, Machiavelli in the British Isles (Ashgate, 2009)

Alessandra Petrina, Machiavelli in the British Isles: Two Early Modern Translations of The Prince. Farnham: Ashgate, 2009. xvii + 289 pp. Hbk. ISBN 9780754666974. £60.00.

Reviewed by Michael Bath

[1]  This edition of two hitherto little-known translations, both in manuscript, of Machiavelli’s The Prince, may at first sight look like a rather specialised, marginal subject for publication in Ashgate’s Anglo-Italian Renaissance Studies Series, however the wider interest and importance of this edition, with its substantial Introduction and generous concluding ‘Critical Reading and Commentary’ on the two texts, should not be underestimated. The reputation and influence of Machiavelli in England have of course long been subjects of debate, with book-length studies from scholars such as Edward Meyer (1897), Felix Raab (1965), Robert Birley (1990) and Sydney Anglo (2005), and articles too numerous to mention, indeed it is difficult to imagine how any of us could get very far when discussing the politics of early-modern writers without, sooner or later, mentioning Machiavelli. These two English/Scottish translations will stand as vital witnesses to the reception of Machiavelli in the British Isles, and as this involves wider issues concerning the access of northern renaissance writers to Italian materials and sources the book deserves the attention of readers of JNR. The first English version of Machiavelli to appear in print only came out in 1640, which raises questions about readers’ access to the actual text of The Prince prior to this date, but the survival of a dozen or more earlier manuscripts shows that at least three different translations had already been attempted before Edward Dacres’ in 1640, and it is the status and circulation of these that are examined by Professor Petrina in this exemplary study.

[2]  The fact that one of the present two translations was written by Scots poet and courtier, William Fowler, is what will make this book of immediate interest to many of us. The other translation is an anonymous manuscript in Queen’s College, Oxford, which has not previously been edited or printed. Fowler’s translation of Il Principe in the National Library of Scotland was, however, edited by the Library’s principal librarian, Henry Meikle, for his three-volume edition of Fowler’s Works.  Edited over a period of more than twenty-five years, the intermittent publication of these volumes in 1914, 1936 and 1940 resulted in few libraries or individuals purchasing all three together, so that it can now be difficult to find copies of the whole set. This makes a new edition of Fowler’s translation most welcome to those of us who have struggled to find, or buy, copies of Meikle’s edition, and Professor Petrina’s substantial introductory ‘Life of William Fowler’ promises, at last, to place Fowler more securely on the scholarly map, complementing the work of recent scholars such as R. D. S. Jack, Margaret Sanderson, Sarah Dunnigan, Sebastiaan Verweij and Elizabeth Elliott on Fowler.

[3]  It is not just Fowler’s own writings which have attracted recent scholarly attention but also his contacts with a large number of individuals at home and abroad, ranging from Michel de Mauvissière, Francis Walsingham, Giordano Bruno, Samuel Daniel, Edward Dymoke, and  John Florio, to the Earl of Shrewsbury and Arbella Stuart.  Fowler travelled not only to Paris but also in Italy, and it was in Padua not in England that he made contact with Edward Dymoke and, possibly, with Florio and Daniel. He bought books in Venice from Giovanbattista Ciotti, a leading agent – at the Frankfurt book fair – in the circulation of books between Italy and northern Europe, and it might possibly have been Ciotti who supplied Fowler with the copy of Machiavelli that he used for his translation of Il Principe. Petrina’s meticulous textual editing does not, however, discover which version of Machiavelli’s text Fowler actually used, although she notes that Fowler repeats many of the misreadings which appear in the 1553 French translation by Gaspard d’Auvergne, a translation dedicated, as it happens, to James Hamilton ‘duc de Châtelherault’. It is probably worth noting that this dedication is anticipated by another, similar dedication around this time, when Hamilton was Governor of Scotland, having been given his French title in 1548, for in 1549 Barthélemy Aneau’s French translation of the emblems of Alciato had been dedicated to Hamilton’s son, the young Earl of Arran, at the suggestion of Scotsman Florence Wilson, a friend of George Buchanan and author of De Tranquillitate Animi. As I noted a few years ago, this dedication was almost certainly motivated by Aneau’s attempt to recommend Wilson as candidate for the position of tutor in France to Hamilton’s son, the young Earl of Arran, a position which was filled, as it turned out, not by Wilson but by George Buchanan’s brother Patrick.  Fowler developed a keen interest in emblems, though that does not mean that he had any knowledge of Aneau’s translation or of its Scottish dedication, but these coincidences might at least suggest something of the transnational context within which the early modern culture of Scotland needs to be studied, although whether or not we should now think of this as part of a ‘new globalism’ in early modern studies might still be open to debate.

[4]  The Queen’s College manuscript is anonymous and thus affords little scope for similar research on its authorship, circulation or motivation. It is likely to have reached the College in the seventeenth century as part of a substantial donation by ex-alumnus and Bishop of Lincoln, Thomas Barlow, whose library included, as it happens, editions of Machiavelli’s Discorsi and also the Florentine History. The prior ownership of the manuscript is unknown, although the spine does have the word Dee inscribed. The possibility that this might be mathematician and astrologer John Dee is, rightly, considered by Petrina, but finally dismissed as unverifiable if not unlikely.

[5]  It is therefore not only this book’s contribution to continuing research on the Northern reputation and circulation of Machiavelli that  leads me to recommend it to readers of JNR, but also the fact that it gathers together so much finely researched information on the wide circle of acquaintances and subjects that William Fowler was involved with. The two translations are studied in the context of recent work on the role of manuscript transmission and translation that have preoccupied many of us since the appearance of H. R. Woudhuysen’s Sir Philip Sidney and the Circulation of Manuscripts 1558-1640 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996). For these reasons this book deserves, and will surely gain, a wide readership in early modern studies and amongst students of the northern Renaissance in particular.

October 2010