Come and visit our new collection website, featuring over 90,000 new object records and 35,000 newly digitised artworks
© the Artist / Bridgeman Art Library. All rights reserved.

Reference URL

Allegory 1964

Not on display

  • Scottish Art
This triptych was exhibited at Bellany's postgraduate exhibition in 1965, when the artist was twenty-three years old. The layout of 'Allegory' derives from Grünewald's 'Isenheim' Altarpiece, but the subject matter is autobiographical. As a student, Bellany had a Saturday job gutting fish in Port Seton, a small fishing village south of Edinburgh. The setting of 'Allegory' is a mixture of Port Seton and Eyemouth (another fishing port), where Bellany's grandparents lived. The gutted haddock, displayed in the manner of the Crucifixion, become metaphors for suffering humanity; the passive fishermen replace Christ's family and the Roman soldiers. Bellany has given religious monumentality to a real-life scene.

Glossary Open


Where the ‘story’ of a work has a deeper underlying meaning – often used for the representation of grand, abstract ideas.


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


A figure of speech in which one thing stands for another. By extension, it is any representation that symbolically refers to something else.


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.

Allegory, Altarpiece, Metaphor, Triptych


  • Acc. No. GMA 3359
  • Medium Oil on hardboard (triptych)
  • Size 212.40 x 121.80 cm; 213.30 x 160.00 cm; 212.50 x 121.80 cm
  • Credit Purchased 1988