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Quitting the Manse

Reference URL

Quitting the Manse 1847

Not on display

  • Scottish Art
This painting is significant as one of the only large Scottish history paintings to commemorate a contemporary religious event. It shows a minister and his family leaving the church house (manse) following the Disruption of 1843, when 450 ministers left their parishes over disputes about the sovereignty of the Church of Scotland. They went on to form the Free Church of Scotland. Harvey put aside the controversial political aspect of the Disruption, and focused on the human problems as the parishioners bid farewell to their much-loved minister and his family. The pose of the minister, hat in hand, reveals his personal loss, despite his belief that his actions are for the greater good. The painting is rarely on display due to bad bitumen damage caused by Harvey’s experiments with varnish.

Glossary Open

Bitumen damage

Bitumen (or asphaltum) is a dark, tarry pigment used as a transparent golden brown varnish in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Unfortunately, it never completely dries. Over time it becomes opaque and deformed like burn blisters, the result of an adverse chemical reaction within the paint itself. This was not immediately apparent and some artists used it extensively in their work to achieve a warm golden glow. The effects of bitumen are completely untreatable with any modern conservation methods, and a good deal of important work has been ruined as a result of its use.

History painting

Paintings in which the subject is taken from biblical, classical or other mythological histories.

Bitumen damage, History painting


  • Acc. No. NG 2308
  • Medium Oil on canvas
  • Size 152.00 x 244.00 cm
  • Credit Presented by Robert Horn and a group of subscribers 1860