The Monarch of the Glen (painting)

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The Monarch of the Glen
ArtistSir Edwin Landseer
Dimensions163.8 cm × 168.9 cm (64.5 in × 66.5 in)
LocationScottish National Gallery[1], Edinburgh

The Monarch of the Glen is an oil-on-canvas painting of a red deer stag completed in 1851 by the English painter Sir Edwin Landseer. It was commissioned as part of a series of three panels to hang in the Palace of Westminster, in London. As one of the most popular paintings throughout the 19th century, it sold widely in reproductions in steel engraving, and was finally bought by companies to use in advertising. The painting had become something of a cliché by the mid-20th century, as "the ultimate biscuit tin image of Scotland: a bulky stag set against the violet hills and watery skies of an isolated wilderness", according to the Sunday Herald.[2]

The stag has twelve points on his antlers, which in deer terminology makes him a "royal stag" but not a "monarch stag", for which sixteen points are needed.[3]

In 2017 the National Galleries of Scotland in Edinburgh launched a successful campaign to buy the painting for £4 million, finally achieving the acquisition. The painting is now part of the collection, and is on display at the Scottish National Gallery in Room 12.[4]


Landseer was a member of the Royal Academy, a favourite of Queen Victoria, and had become famous for his paintings and drawings of animals. His later works include the sculptures of the lions at the foot of Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square. From the 1840s, he produced a series of intricately observed studies of stags based on those he had seen on the trips he had been making to the Scottish Highlands since 1824. In 1850, Landseer received a national commission to paint three subjects connected with the chase for the Refreshment Rooms of the House of Lords, for which he produced Monarch of the Glen and two other paintings. Once they were completed the House of Commons refused to grant the £150 promised for the commission (equivalent to £17,065 in 2021), and, as a result, the paintings were sold to private collectors. It has been claimed that the landscape setting shows Glen Affric.[5]

The Monarch of the Glen in the Scottish National Gallery
The Monarch of the Glen in the Scottish National Gallery

It was exhibited in London in 1851, 1874 and 1890.[6] From the collection of William Denison, 1st Earl of Londesborough it passed in 1884 to Henry Eaton, 1st Baron Cheylesmore after whose death in 1891 it realized £7,245 at his sale at Christie's in May 1892 (equivalent to £841,778 in 2021), where it was bought by Agnew's, who resold it to T. Barratt for £8,000. In 1916 he resold it at Christie's for £5,250 (equivalent to £378,700 in 2021).[7] The price in 1892 was the highest made by a Landseer before the 1960s, with the exception of a rumoured price of £10,000 in a private sale of The Otter Hunt in 1873, which would have then represented the highest price ever paid for a British painting.[8]

The painting was purchased in 1916 by Pears soap company and featured in their advertising. It was sold on to John Dewar & Sons distillery and became their trademark before similarly being used by Glenfiddich. The painting was then acquired as part of the purchase of Dewar's by Diageo. In 1997 Diageo sold Dewar's to Bacardi but this did not include ancillary assets. Diageo then loaned the painting to the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.

On 2 November 2016, Diageo announced their intention to sell the painting, as they stated it had "no direct link to our business or brands".[9] The National Galleries of Scotland was offered the painting, valued at £8 million, at half this price, if they could raise the required £4 million. A campaign was then launched to raise the funds, which succeeded.[10]

Modern derivatives and corporate logos[edit]

Challenge butter

According to the Sunday Herald, the painting became a cliché by the mid 20th century as "the ultimate biscuit tin image of Scotland"; its usage included a 1940s tin of McVitie's shortbread.[2]

The painting has many copiers, one, The Challenger, was an inspiration for the sides of delivery trucks for Challenge Dairies whose heritage was later added to butter cartons in stores.[11] Glenfiddich single malt Scotch whisky has used a variation of Landseer's stag image in their logo since 1968.[12]

Company legend has it the first President of Challenge Cream and Butter Association, J.P. Murphy, now Challenge Dairy of California, chose the name from a variation of the mural, depicted on the company's current logo.[13]

In 2012 Peter Saville collaborated with Dovecot Studios Edinburgh to celebrate their centenary by creating a large scale tapestry of his work After, After, After Monarch of the Glen. This tapestry was Dovecot Studios' re-appropriation of Saville's version of Sir Peter Blake's usage of Landseer's 1851 painting.[14]

The painting has also been used on the label of tins of Baxter's Royal Game soup in the UK,[15] and as the backdrop for the front desk of the Rosebudd Motel from the Canadian television sitcom, Schitt's Creek.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Monarch of the Glen". National Galleries of Scotland. Retrieved 21 September 2019.
  2. ^ a b Sunday Herald website, Moira Jeffrey, April 2, 2005
  3. ^ According to most sources. Ukwildlifeonline
  4. ^ "Sir Edwin Landseer's Monarch of the Glen, c. 1851 – European Romanticisms in Association".
  5. ^ Monbiot, George (2014). Feral: Rewilding the Land, the Sea, and Human Life. University of Chicago Press. p. 149. ISBN 9780226205557.
  6. ^ Christie's
  7. ^ Christie's, £7145 per hand annotation; £7245 per Reitlinger, 359, who covers the further sales.
  8. ^ Reitlinger, 358–359
  9. ^ "Iconic Scottish painting The Monarch of the Glen to be sold". BBC. 2 November 2016. Retrieved 2 November 2016.
  10. ^ "Campaign to raise funds for Monarch of the Glen painting". BBC. 16 February 2017. Retrieved 16 February 2017.
  11. ^ "Monarch of the Glen". Sartle. 21 October 2019. Retrieved 6 August 2021.
  12. ^ October 2014, Tom May22 (22 October 2014). "New logo and branding for Glenfiddich whisky". Creative Bloq.
  13. ^ "Our Story". 23 September 2008.
  14. ^ "Peter Saville: After, After, After Monarch of the Glen". Dovecot Studios. Retrieved 6 August 2021.
  15. ^ "Baxter's label".