An Iconic Acquisition with a Secret

Jacobite snuff box acquired by West Highland Museum in 2019 with an NFA grant of £3,450.

We were delighted to have the opportunity to purchase a rare hidden portrait Jacobite snuff box at the Lyon and Turnbull auction in Edinburgh in August 2019 at a cost of £9,750.


Circular snuff box with enamel tartan decoration

The circular box with enamel tartan decoration has a hinged cover which opens to reveal a plain interior. Inside, however, a hidden lid opens to reveal a finely enamelled portrait of Prince Charles Edward Stuart in tartan jacket and Jacobite white cockade. He wears the highest chivalric honours of England and Scotland, the Orders of the Garter and the Thistle, signifying the owner’s support for the legitimacy of the Stuart claim to the British throne. The portrait is a variant of the famous Robert Strange example which likely dates this piece to circa 1750.


Snuff box showing hidden lid


Snuff box with enamelled portrait of Prince Charles Edward Stuart

Hidden portrait snuff boxes such as this are amongst the most iconic Jacobite works of art. A Jacobite host could give his friends a pinch of snuff and, depending on the company, could reveal the hidden portrait. This example is in particularly good condition and finely enamelled. The West Highland Museum has been actively seeking Jacobite material since its inception in 1922 and its collections are based on material donated for the 1925 Prince Charles Edward Stuart Exhibition. The collection contains many unique and unusual objects, such as the Secret Portrait of Bonnie Prince Charlie, his death mask, paintings, drawings, miniatures, Jacobite glass, weapons and an important Jacobite archive. This valuable addition to the collection is now on permanent display.

We would not have been able to acquire this fine object without the financial support of the National Fund for Acquisitions, the Art Fund and a very generous local donor. We are most grateful to everyone who has contributed to make this purchase possible.

Vanessa Martin
West Highland Museum


A Fan for Fans of Scottish History

Printed hand-coloured fan depicting the Siege of Stirling, 1746, acquired by the Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum in 2006 with an NFA grant of £925.

Copyright of Stirling Smith Museum and Art Callery

Printed hand-coloured fan depicting the Siege of Stirling

This fan, dating from 1746, is an eloquent witness to the events of 1 February-16 April that year when the Jacobite army, in retreat from Stirling, was finally defeated at Culloden. These events are depicted in a linear, almost cinematographic fashion with three months freeze-framed on one arc of paper supported by 19 delicate wooden sticks.  The image is printed but beautifully hand-coloured. The scene is economical with the truth but in some aspects deadly accurate.

copyright of Stirling Smith Museum and Art Gallery

Detail of the St Ninian’s kirk explosion

In fact the two armies did not meet until 16 April on Drummossie Moor, 140 miles further north.  The Jacobites left Stirling in haste on 1 February; the Hanoverians entered Stirling the following day.  In the rush to leave, the kirk of St Ninians, used by the Jacobites as a gunpowder store, was accidentally blown up. The solitary tower of St Ninian’s kirk remains to this day as a permanent reminder of the Jacobite invasion. The nave of the church was totally destroyed and never rebuilt. The bodies in the explosion depicted in the centre of the fan represent the ‘collateral damage’ of the ten who died on 1 February.

The looting of Stirling by the fleeing Jacobites was thorough. As the bridge was partially demolished, they crossed the Forth at Fords of Frew. The Cowane’s Hospital Charter Chest, dating from 1636, was carried off as a meal container and was not recovered by the town until 1882.

Stirling had the reputation of being a disloyal, pro-Jacobite town, and this siege of Stirling fan was part of propaganda to convince the government otherwise. Two days before his victory at Culloden, William Duke of Cumberland was made a free man of Stirling.  Every lady in town would have been required to display this fan in his presence.

Dr Elspeth King
Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum