The Monarch of the Glen. Sir Edwin Landseer, R.A. 1851, Oil on canvas. 165.8 cm × 171.2 cm. The painting is in the collection of the Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh (NG 2881), but was seen on tour at Inverness Museum and Art Gallery in October 2017. [Click on the image to enlarge it.]

Landseer has captured the splendour of a mature stag in the prime of life, against a typically misty Highland background which gives it, despite its muscular body and the assured tilt of its head, an almost mystical presence. According to the gallery label it is "a ‘royal’ or twelve point stag — a reference to the number of tines or points on its antlers...."

The artist was already the most popular animal painter of the era, and this work was originally intended to have graced the House of Lords. Instead, it went into private hands, but was so widely reproduced in prints that it achieved iconic status as an image of the country itself. The gallery label mentions its later use for marketing purposes, and indeed it is familiar to everyone from its appearance on tins of Scottish shortbread biscuits, whiskey bottles and other Scottish produce.

Photographs and text by Jacqueline Banerjee, by kind permission of the Inverness Museum and Art Gallery. You may use the images without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the gallery and the photographer, and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.

Links to related material


Gallery label. Inverness Museum and Art Gallery, 10 October 2017.

Created 13 April 2022