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  • John Blake MacDonald
Study for the Painting 'The Arrest of a Rebel after the Battle of Culloden'

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Study for the Painting 'The Arrest of a Rebel after the Battle of Culloden' Dated 1864

Not on display

  • Scottish Art
This painting shows a ‘rebel’ highlander being arrested by government troops after the Battle of Culloden in 1746. MacDonald’s drawing is dated 1864, and is a preparatory study for a painting which he exhibited at the Royal Scottish Academy the same year. MacDonald was working at the height of the Romantic Movement when writers, artists and poets were able to look on Jacobite history from a safe distance. They drew on the stories and anecdotes from the past and explored all their potential for drama and pathos. Here, MacDonald shows the tartan-clad highlander with his wife, who holds the arresting soldier at arms length. Behind them their sleeping baby is in the arms of an elderly woman, who weeps as the hopelessness of their situation is realised.

Glossary Open

Battle of Culloden

A battle fought on Culloden Moor near Inverness in 1746 between supporters of the exiled House of Stuart - led by the Young Pretender, Prince Charles Edward Stuart - and government troops led by the Duke of Cumberland. The government victory effectively brought the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion to an end and resulted in a repression of Highland culture as punishment.


Jacobitism was a movement to restore the descendants of the Stuart King James VII and II to the British throne. The first claimant, Prince James Francis Edward (known as 'the Old Pretender') was exiled first in France, then Italy, from where he planned unsuccessful attempts to claim the throne. His son Prince Charles Edward (known as 'Bonnie Prince Charlie' or 'the Young Pretender') famously invaded Britain in 1745, but after some military successes was finally defeated at Culloden in 1746.


A movement in art, literature and music in the 18th and 19th centuries that rejected neoclassical restraint in favour of emotion and individual expression.

Royal Scottish Academy

The Royal Scottish Academy (RSA) was formed in Edinburgh in 1826 by Scottish artists who felt alienated by what they perceived as the elitism of the Royal Institution and its management of contemporary art exhibitions. In 1835, the RSA secured exhibition rights in the Royal Institution building, which had been erected on The Mound by the Board of Manufactures in 1826. The RSA and the Board frequently argued over responsibilities for advanced art education. From 1859, the RSA shared the premises of the new National Gallery of Scotland under the Board’s custody. In 1910, after transferring most of its art collections to the Gallery, the RSA gained exclusive tenancy of the former Royal Institution building, where it continues to hold large-scale annual exhibitions.

Battle of Culloden, Jacobite, Romanticism, Royal Scottish Academy


  • Acc. No. D 2756
  • Medium Pen, brown ink and wash over pencil heightened with white on paper
  • Size 14.80 x 19.50 cm
  • Credit William Findlay Watson Bequest 1881