William Bell Scott’s Screen: A Pre-Raphaelite Romance (paperback)

National Galleries of Scotland
Emily Learmont
Page count:
64 pp
35 colour, 5 black & white
Item Size:
20 x 22 cm

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The intriguing story behind a beautiful and rarely seen work by a major Scottish Victorian artist, closely connected to the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.

William Bell Scott’s screen, The King’s Quair, was commissioned by Scott’s friend and patron James Leathart, an important collector of Pre-Raphaelite art. The beautiful and intricately decorated folding screen took as its inspiration The Kingis Quair, a fifteenth-century Scots poem attributed to James I of Scotland. The screen depicts key scenes from the king’s eighteen-year imprisonment in Windsor Castle, including courtship of his future queen. It is adorned by exquisite botanical details and embellished by gold leaf.

Split into three parts, this book first reveals the history of the screen’s commission. It then details and interprets the remarkable imagery of the screen itself. Finally, the screen is situated in its historical context by explaining the fascinating personal relationships that were the backdrop to each stage of its creation, including Scott’s relationship with the artist and wealthy heiress Alice Boyd.

Drawing together the chivalric medieval tale of an imprisoned, love-struck king with the vibrancy of the Pre-Raphaelite social circles in which Scott moved, the reader is given a vivid picture of how this captivating artwork was created. Illustrated with new photography of the screen, which recently underwent extensive conservation work, this book is a vital new part of the story of British, as well as Scottish art.

About the author: Emily Learmont is an artist, art historian and arts educator. She is an AHRC-funded Collaborative Doctoral Partnership candidate at the University of Edinburgh and the National Galleries of Scotland researching the life and work of William Bell Scott.