About this artwork

This grinning man holds a kail stock with a burning candle stuck in the top. This helps identify him as the fool or jester of a Scottish laird, who probably presided over Halloween festivities, such as those described in Robert Burns' poetry. Traditionally, unmarried men and women pulled up kail stocks to confirm the character of their future partner. A candle was then stuck into the end to make a torch. This portrait, painted in 1731, was possibly part of a series depicting Scottish clan members.

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Richard Waitt

Richard Waitt

Waitt specialised in portraiture, but began his career as a decorative painter. His first recorded work is a coat of arms for the Earl of Hopetoun. He may have trained in the Edinburgh studio of the painter John Scougal and seems to have produced several different types of painting, notably still life. He married into a family with Jacobite sympathies and possibly left the country, temporarily, after the 1715 Jacobite Rising. He must have returned by 1722, however, when he resumed work for the Clan Grant based in Castle Grant, Strathspey. Waitt's series of portraits formed a unique clan gallery.