The Lost Wigtown Martyr #LostArt #History

Lost Art Wigtown

Somewhere, out there, might be the lost painting by John William Waterhouse that depicts the martyrdom of Margaret Wilson, one of the Wigtown Martyrs of 1685.

I found this online, here, and thought it might be of interest to anyone interested in the Wigtown Martyrs.

‘In 1875 John William Waterhouse, probably inspired by Millais, also painted a picture of the same subject, “Margaret, Scottish Martyr”. Its location is unknown today (perhaps it’ll turn up on Antiques Roadshow someday!). No reproduction appears to exist of it but we can get a good idea of its appearance from these contemporary reviews written when it was exhibited at the Dudley Gallery in 1875:

“This uncommon-looking subject has been painted before; the Scotch girl who, for Cameronianism or some other religious obliquity, was judicially sentenced to be drowned by the flood-tide, and was left, bound to a stake, to perish as the sea rose. Mr. Waterhouse gives us the moment when the tide is just beginning to turn: the waters have ceased to recede, have ceased the brief respite between ebb and flow, and are now laving the heretic maiden’s feet, with lulling, murmuring, terrible caress. The painting is not a strong one, yet pathetic in this its faintest foreshadowing of the hours of slow-growing agony and unevadeable death.” (from “Pictures in the Dudley Gallery: Second Notice”, ‘The Academy’, November 6th, 1875)

“Mr J.W. Waterhouse’s picture of “Margaret, Scottish Martyr” (No. 62), bound to a stake on the seashore to be drowned by the approaching tide, has much sentiment and refinement, and is certainly not devoid of power. More expression, and that of a more clearly-defined character, might have been thrown into the face; but this is almost the sole objection to be found. The waves break on the shore, not angrily, almost merrily, for the sea is fair and blue, though there is some wind and a little surf, and probably, as night draws on, it will be rough; and Margaret stands, her hair blown by the fresh salt breeze, her face gazing heavenwards. There is no shadow of that theatrical exaggeration which an inferior artist would inevitably have given to such a scene.” (from an article by Rapier, “How the World Wags”, ‘London Society’, 1875)

“A subject picture that fails for want of power in the carrying out is ‘Margaret, Scottish Martyr’ (62) by J.W. Waterhouse. Yet is there some pathos in the figure of the girl awaiting her death, as the evening darkens down with a chill moaning wind, and the salt tide crawls up the sands towards its victim.” (from “Dudley Gallery – Winter Exhibition”, ‘The Architect’, October 30th, 1875)’

There is more on his works, including a slide show, pictures etc, here.

Do you know this picture?

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~ by drmarkjardine on November 9, 2015.

3 Responses to “The Lost Wigtown Martyr #LostArt #History”

  1. It seems that this has now been found: Dennis T. Lanigan, “J. W. Waterhouse’s Margaret, Scottish Martyr – A Rediscovery”, Review of Pre-Raphaelite Society, Volume XXVIIl, Number 2, Summer 2020.

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