Phoebe Anna Traquair

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Phoebe Traquair by Peter Induni, SNPG.JPG
Peter Induni, Phoebe Traquair, 1927
Spouse(s) Ramsay Heatley Traquair

Phoebe Anna Traquair (/trəˈkwɛər/; 24 May 1852 – 4 August 1936) was an Irish-born artist, noted for her role in the Arts and Crafts movement in Scotland, as an illustrator, painter and embroiderer.

Family life[edit]

Phoebe Traquair was born Phoebe Anna Moss on 24 May 1852 in Kilternan, County Dublin. Her parents were surgeon William Moss and Teresa (née Richardson) Moss. Phoebe with the sixth of their seven children. She married the Scottish palaeontologist Ramsay Heatley Traquair on 5 June 1873.[1][2] The couple moved to Edinburgh in Spring 1874.[3][4] Some of her work was palaeontological drawing related to her husband's research.[1] Their children were Ramsay, Henry (Harry) Moss and Hilda.[5]

Phoebe's elder brother was William Moss, a keen art collector, with a large number of works by Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Her love of art most probably came from this connection, and her style borrows heavily from Rossetti.[3]


Phoebe Traquair, detail from 'The Victory', the last of four embroideries in the series 'The Progress of a Soul'.
Phoebe Anna Traquair, illuminated image in Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnets from the Portuguese - Sonnet 30
Phoebe Traquair, Catholic Apostolic Church murals, Edinburgh (east end)
Phoebe Traquair, Catholic Apostolic Church murals, Edinburgh (west end)

Traquair painted the interiors of four Edinburgh buildings between 1885 and 1901.[1] Her wall painting include the chapels of the Royal Hospital for Sick Children (1885–1886 and 1896–1898) which includes the mortuary murals, painted 1885 at Meadowside House and transferred to the new site.[6] Influenced by John Ruskin's writing, Traquair made a portrait of Ruskin from a photograph. His image appears in a mural that Traquair created in 1885 and 1886 for the Sick Children's Mortuary Chapel in Edinburgh. The mural is of Three Maidens (Divine Powers) which is bordered by images within lunettes of other writers, artists and critics, like Edward Burne-Jones, William Bell Scott, and Noel Paton. This was her first work as a professional artist.[7] The mortuary was a small windowless coal house where bodies could be left "reverently and lovingly" until the children were taken by the parents for burial. The paintings illustrated the redemption of mankind.[citation needed] Her murals of the song school of St Mary's Cathedral (1888–92) won Traquair national recognition.[2][8] Within a tunnel-vaulted interior, the east wall depicts the cathedral clergy and choir. The south wall depicts Traquair's admired contemporaries such as Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Holman Hunt, and George Frederic Watts. On the north wall birds and choristers sing together, and the west wall shows the four beasts singing the Sanctus.[9] The Song School is still used daily for practice by the Choristers. Her best-known work is in the vast former Catholic Apostolic Church (1893–1901) on East London Street at the foot of Broughton Street, which has been called "Edinburgh’s Sistine Chapel",[1] and "a jewelled crown".[8] It was this work which "helped to confirm her international recognition."[10]

Her most "public" work can be viewed in the Thistle Chapel of St Giles Cathedral where she designed the enamel armorial panels over the knights' seats.[11] Another of her major works is a key Arts and Crafts illuminated manuscript of Sonnets from the Portuguese by the Victorian poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning, which is held by the National Library of Scotland (NLS) and a version is available on the NLS Digital Library.[12]


Phoebe is buried with her husband, and the ashes of her son Harry, in Colinton Parish Church Graveyard. She designed the gravestone,[4] but it was carved by Pilkington Jackson.

Ramsay Traquair's grave, Colinton churchyard, Edinburgh




  1. ^ a b c d "Phoebe Anna Traquair". National Library of Scotland. 2006. Retrieved 12 January 2015. 
  2. ^ a b Elizabeth Cumming. "Traquair [née Moss], Phoebe Anna (1852-1936), artist". Oxford Index of National Biography. Retrieved 12 January 2015. 
  3. ^ a b Elizabeth Cumming (March 2005). Phoebe Anna Traquair, 1852-1936. National Galleries of Scotland. ISBN 1-903278-651. 
  4. ^ a b Traquair, Ramsay Heatley (1840–1912), Roberta L. Paton, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004, Retrieved 7 August 2011
  5. ^ "Traquair, Ramsay Heatley". Who's Who, 59: p. 1764. 1907. 
  6. ^ "Sciennes Road, Royal Hospital for Sick Children, Edinburgh (Reference number 30480)". Listed Buildings. Historic Scotland. Retrieved 12 January 2015. 
  7. ^ James S. Dearden (1999). John Ruskin: A Life in Pictures. A&C Black. p. 136. ISBN 978-1-84127-045-6. 
  8. ^ a b "A Tour of the Cathedral: The Song School". St Mary's Cathedral, Edinburgh. Retrieved 12 January 2015. 
  9. ^ John Gifford, Colin McWilliam, David Walker (1984). The Buildings of Scotland: Edinburgh. Pevsner Architectural Guides. p. 366. 
  10. ^ "Phoebe Anna Traquair (1852–1936)". Mansfield Traquair Trust. Archived from the original on 23 December 2012. Retrieved 2009-11-04. 
  11. ^ John Gifford, Colin McWilliam, David Walker (1984). The Buildings of Scotland: Edinburgh. Pevsner Architectural Guides. 
  12. ^ "Phoebe Anna Traqair: Sonnets from the Portuguese". National Library of Scotland. 2006. Retrieved 12 January 2015. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Media related to Phoebe Anna Traquair at Wikimedia Commons