About this artwork

In 1771 Runciman returned to Scotland after a prolonged trip to Italy. Before his trip he had made a promise to Sir James Clerk of Penicuik, 3rd Baronet, that he would decorate the great hall and staircases of Clerk’s newly built manor, Penicuik House. Clerk had funded Runciman’s trip to Italy, and conversed with him about his intentions for the decorations while abroad. He had originally intended to paint a cycle based on scenes from classical mythology, but at some point he changed his mind in favour of subjects from the poems of Ossian, a fictitious third-century Celtic bard. The decorations at Penicuik (sadly destroyed by fire in 1899) were Runciman’s masterpieces. This drawing shows his unfinished designs for the central oval of the ceiling.

Alexander Runciman

Alexander Runciman