About this artwork

For centuries, the dramatic life of Mary, Queen of Scots, has provided exciting subject matter for painters, writers and composers. Here, Sir William Allan depicts the assassination of David Rizzio, the queen's Italian secretary, in March 1566. The artist took great care to be historically accurate, establishing the exact identity and role of all the individual conspirators and recreating the look of Mary's rooms at the Palace of Holyrood. Allan based his Earl of Morton (with black hat to the far right) on a contemporary portrait, attributed to Arnold Bronckhorst, which is in the collection of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. To the left, Mary is being restrained by her husband, Lord Darnley, who was part of the conspiracy but later denied any involvement.

Updated before 2020

  • artist:
  • title:
    The Murder of David Rizzio
  • date created:
    Exhibited 1833 (Royal Academy)
  • materials:
    Oil on panel
  • measurements:
    102.50 x 163.30 cm (framed: 150.70 x 210.00 x 14.00 cm)
  • object type:
  • credit line:
    Presented by the 3rd Baron Strathcona and Mount Royal 1927
  • accession number:
    NG 1677
  • gallery:
  • depicted:
  • subject:
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Sir William Allan

Sir William Allan