About this artwork

In 1805, this painting won a student prize for Shirreff while he was at the Trustees’ Academy. He chose an episode from the life of Mary, Queen of Scots which had been related by Gilbert Stuart in his influential ‘History of Scotland’ (1783). In a letter to his father the young artist wrote: "I have taken the point of time when Lord Seaton is receiving Mary from the boat, and young George Douglas handing her on and one of the attendants holding the horse that the Queen is to ride on. I am very pleased with it myself." By the early nineteenth century, Mary was a popular romantic heroine. William Lizars, one of Shirreff’s friends, engraved this painting after the young artist’s premature death.

  • title: Mary, Queen of Scots Escaping from Lochleven Castle
  • accession number: NG 2255
  • artist: William Craig ShirreffScottish (1786 - 1805)
  • depicted: Mary
  • gallery: In Storage
  • object type: Painting
  • subject: Mary Queen of Scots
  • materials: Oil on canvas
  • date created: 1805
  • measurements: 77.20 x 92.40 cm (framed: 86.80 x 102.50 x 6.20 cm)
  • credit line: Presented by Mrs Fairgrieve 1963
  • photographer: Antonia Reeve

William Craig Shirreff

William Craig Shirreff

Shirreff was born in Haddington, the son of an East Lothian farmer. He entered the Trustees’ Academy in Edinburgh in 1802, at the time when John Graham was master. Graham introduced oil painting into the curriculum, and also initiated a scheme of premiums for the best historical paintings. In 1805, Shirreff won the top prize for his first major attempt at history painting using oil paint. The picture is now in the National Gallery of Scotland’s collection (NG 2255). Sadly, and aged only eighteen, Sherriff died of consumption before the prize was awarded. It was bestowed posthumously.