Kinship has always been important to Scots. This year in particular, the Year of Homecoming, has seen thousands return to their ancestral land from across the world, underlining the enduring strength of family and clan ties.
One of the most spectacular illustrations of the importance of kinship is George Jamesone’s painting of the family tree of Sir Colin Campbell, 8th Laird of Glenorchy (the twelve mile long valley between Bridge of Orchy and Dalmally, in Argyll). Sir Colin commissioned many portraits from the Aberdeen-born artist George Jamesone, the first major figure in the history of Scottish painting.
His family tree is dated 1635, and commemorates one of the most successful and powerful families in early modern Scotland. It shows the descendants of Sir Duncan Campbell of Lochawe (died 1453), who is presented lying on the ground at the foot of the tree. Sir Duncan Campbell, married to a granddaughter of King Robert II, was seen as the patriarch of the Campbells of Glenorchy. The seven portraits on the trunk are the first seven lairds of Glenorchy each with his name and the number of years he was laird. The eighth roundel contains the portrait of Sir Colin.
The painting was made after two centuries of territorial expansion of the Glenorchy Campbells, a cadet branch of the clan Campbell, who, since Sir Duncan’s time, had extended their influence and control over a large part of the Southern Highlands. Their success was due in good part to their extensive family network which this painting celebrates.
Jamesone’s The Campbell of Glenorchy Family Tree is currently on show in the exhibition Homecoming, at the Dick Institute, Kilmarnock until 12 December 2009.
James Holloway is one of the regular contributors to HEADS UP our Portrait of the Nation blog which gets behind the scenes of our big transformation.