Mary, Queen of Scots: The Farewell to France

Reference URL

Mary, Queen of Scots: The Farewell to France Dated 1867
  • Scottish Art
In 1867 the Glasgow Art Union commissioned Herdman to paint four pictures to illustrate episodes from of the life of Mary, Queen of Scots. The literary source for the pictures was the popular poem about Mary by the Glaswegian lawyer Henry Glassford Bell. In 1863 the Queen’s Theatre in Edinburgh had staged a series of ‘tableaux vivants’ based on Bell’s poem. The success of these performances may well have prompted the Art Union’s commission to Herdman. This is the second picture in the set. It depicts the young Queen’s ill-fated return to Scotland in 1561 after the death of her first husband François II of France. In 1868, the entire set was offered as first prize to subscribers to the Union’s annual lottery.

Glossary Open


When an individual or organisation employs an artist to execute a particular project, the process and the resulting work are termed a ‘commission’.

Tableau vivant

French for 'living picture'. The term describes a striking group of carefully posed and costumed people, who remain silent and motionless as in a picture.

Commission, Tableau vivant


  • Acc. No. NG 2636
  • Medium Oil on canvas
  • Size 91.80 x 71.40 cm (framed: 112.00 x 92.00 x 8.10 cm)
  • Credit Bequest of Miss Mary Beatrice Maude Herdman 1995