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Three Heads: The Witches of Macbeth

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Three Heads: The Witches of Macbeth About 1767 - 1768

Not on display

  • Scottish Art
In 1767 John Runciman and his brother Alexander travelled to Rome. There they joined an international group of artists associated with Henri Fuseli (1741–1825). Many of the artists in this circle were interested in dramatic, fantastic subjects that afforded them a new freedom in their work. Subjects stemmed from poetry, literature, and particularly the theatrical works of Shakespeare. John was an accomplished draughtsman and etcher, and in Rome his work became more vibrant and expressive in style. In this rapidly executed sketch, the brown wash on the paper is highlighted with light gouache, giving the figures an eerie and supernatural appearance. Previously catalogued as ‘Three Satyrs’, it is now believed that they are the three witches from Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’.

Glossary Open


The ability to draw skilfully, often refers to technical drawing.


A form of printmaking in which a metal plate is covered with a substance called a 'ground', usually wax, into which an image is drawn with a needle. Acid is applied, eroding the areas of the plate exposed but not the areas covered by wax. The action of the acid creates lines in the metal plate that hold the ink from which a print is made when the plate is pressed against paper under pressure.


Usually refers to watercolour mixed with white pigment that retains the fluidity of the former but without the transparency. The term body-colour is also used.

Draughtsmanship, Etching, Gouache


  • Acc. No. D 360
  • Medium Ink and bodycolour on red-washed paper
  • Size 23.50 x 24.90 cm
  • Credit David Laing Bequest to the Royal Scottish Academy transferred 1910