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The Trinity Altarpiece about 1478 - 1479


These panels formed part of one of the most important altarpieces ever painted for a Scottish chapel, and are thought to have been the wings of a triptych. The work was commissioned by Edward Bonkil, Provost of the Collegiate Chapel of the Holy Trinity in Edinburgh. (The chapel was demolished in 1848 to make way for Waverley Station.) The missing central panel possibly showed the Virgin and Child Enthroned, and may have been destroyed during the Reformation. When open, the wings show a devout King James III with his elder son and his queen Margaret of Denmark, accompanied by St Andrew and St George. The lion rampant on the king’s coat of arms is reversed in deference to the holy figures on the missing central panel. The closed wings feature a vision of the Holy Trinity appearing to the kneeling Edward Bonkil.

Glossary Open


An artwork behind a church altar featuring religious scenes or imagery which was usually the focus for the celebration of the Mass.


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


A 16th century movement that sought reform of the Roman Catholic Church. It was led by figures such as Martin Luther and John Calvin who saw the church as increasingly corrupt and moving away from Christian principles. It resulted in the establishment of the Protestant denominations.


An artwork consisting of three components. It may refer specifically to a work with wings that fold over the central image; this is a common form for altarpieces.

Altarpiece, Commission, Reformation, Triptych


  • Acc. No. [NG 1772]
  • Medium Oil on panel
  • Size Each panel: 202.00 x 100.50 cm
  • Credit Lent by Her Majesty the Queen