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Beginnings: Early times to 1560

Culture and Leisure

Painting and Sculpture

By Mungo Campbell

Glasgow University Mace The story of painting and sculpture in Glasgow prior to the 17th century is only distinguished from that in the other great cities of Scotland by its comparative absence. Of the seventy or so named painters in Scottish records before 1560, not one is specifically linked to Glasgow.

This state of affairs partially reflects the nature of the work undertaken in Scotland by painters at the time; almost entirely decorative work, such as painted ceilings and coats of arms. The architectural record in Glasgow offers no significant trace of this type of decorative painting although it will undoubtedly have been present on a modest scale.

Some of the finest extant works of art from this early period connected with Glasgow were made away from the city, but have powerful associations with the institutions which helped shape it. Two such, made within a couple of decades during the late 15th century, stand out as objects of international quality offering a tantalising glimpse of the cultural aspirations of their then owners. The University of Glasgow's mace, dating from 1465, is one of a handful of such works still in Scotland, while French or Flemish craftsmen illustrated a prayer book, now in the National Library of Scotland, which was commissioned by Bishop Blackadder in the 1480s. It includes an image of the Bishop himself at prayer.

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