I was wildly delighted to receive this image by email today from my architect Dr. Paul Bradley, who has recently purchased the original watercolour.
I did not know such a picture existed, but to me it tells a number of stories.
The picture was painted just 4 years after construction of the castle, so it must be associated somehow with the original owner David Lyon and it is very much the castle, in newly constructed pride, saying "look at me". It looks to be painted by a talented amateur rather than a professional artist, so I would guess the artist was a member of the shooting party shown. Sketching and painting were very much the hobbies of the day.
There are 4 ladies and 3 gentlemen in the scene, so I am guessing the artist is the missing 4th gentleman. Gentlemen and ladies paint architecture in different ways, and this has a male cast. It is likely that his lady friend is the figure in the foreground writing or sketching - a shared common interest no doubt. Does the lady have a small easel at her feet?
The vegetation is almost non-existent in the image: the castle's terrace was leveled in 1860 so there has only been 4 years growing time. Today, there are tall trees to the right and huge yews to the left. I always thought it would be a shame if any of the trees died, but the terrace without the trees has a exposed raw beauty of its own.
There is a balustraded stone wall to the rear of the picture. I never knew such a wall existed, but it could, if not artistic licence, explain a long-standing mystery. The earliest photo of the castle (c 1860) shows no balustrading on the inner courtyard wall on the left hand side of this image. It is not shown here, in 1864, either. However, a photograph of 1923 shows the courtyard wall to be balustraded. I am now wondering if the balustrading was moved during the history of the castle? Perhaps the garden wall got damaged in some way, so the balustrading was consolidated on the shorter run of the courtyard wall?
I was told about a cannon in front of the castle, in living memory, I would guess the 1950's. There is a cannon in this picture, so could it be the one and the same? I had no idea this feature could have gone right back to the earliest days of the castle.
The figures are depicted in a way that seems more 18th Century or even 17th Century - no doubt the old-world romance of the Highlands, as penned by Sir Walter Scott, is the aim!
What could the red flag be? Surely it must be an artistic confection, as I cannot think of any relevant flags that would fit. The artist has picked out the red hem of his lady friend's dress and hem of the dress of the lady on the pony riding side-saddle, suggesting he was using his red brush as embellishment.
The mist lying in the valley below is one of my favourite looks too.
The castle's spelling is old form "Balentore" as seen on the original architectural plans, rather then the current "Balintore". I wondered whether the plans' spelling was an aberration or mistake, but the evidence here now suggests this was the received spelling in the 1860's.
Hope you enjoyed my Sherlock Holmes dissection of the picture.
|1864 Watercolour of Balintore Castle|