Taking a Line for a Walker

Pictish stone from Tulloch, Perth, acquired by Perth Museum & Art Gallery in 2019 with an NFA Grant of £1,500.

Towards the end of 2017 new roadworks behind St Johnstone’s Football Stadium in Perth unexpectedly and thrillingly unearthed a fascinating and complete carved Pictish stone.

Pictish sculpture of a spear-carrying warrior

Pictish sculpture of a spear-carrying warrior © Perth Museum & Art Gallery

The stone is a large, oblong, glacial erratic of metamorphosed sandstone measuring some 2m in height and bearing on one face an incised figure around 1m high. The key features of this figure are that he is naked, carrying a particular type of spear (a door-knob butted spear that can be dated to the second quarter of the first millennium AD) and sporting a pushed-back, intimidating hair-style. The stone is a significant new addition to Scotland’s corpus of Pictish sculpture and in particular the small group of incised, walking, often-grotesque and ritually symbolic, single figures. The three closest parallels, all spear-carrying walkers, come from Rhynie (Aberdeenshire), Collessie (Fife) and Westerton (Angus).

The probable dating of these to the fifth or sixth century may be indicative of a society dominated by warbands led by warrior princes/kings in which spear-wielding warriors were of fundamental importance. The presence of such a sculpture in the Perth area certainly fills a gap between the end of the Roman military intervention and the later Picts and suggests the presence of an important nobleman’s hall and/or place of burial in the Tulloch area. Stylised depictions of such fearsome-looking warriors on large, highly visible stones could well have been seen as having a warning, protective role and a status/power signalling role as one approached such sites: communicating both with people and the supernatural.

Mark A Hall
Collections Officer
Perth Museum & Art Gallery

Dazzling, playful Glare – the Perth Hare

Water-jet cut and screen-printed glass panel, Glare, 2011, by Rachel Elliott, acquired by Perth Museum and Art Gallery in 2012 with an NFA grant of £1,200

Storefronts, grand old hotels, imposing buildings, a glasshouse, big trees … can you identify the places around Perth on a larger-than-life glass hare?

'Glare' by Rachel Elliott

Water-jet cut and screen-printed glass, ‘Glare’ by Rachel Elliott. Photograph by Paul Adair

The images take you back in time to a Perth of days gone by. Get really close, the details of a hotel lobby stand out, from a distance the hare takes on a personality, the sight of battling hares in the fields of Perthshire.

Glare by Rachel Elliott detail 3    Glare by Rachel Elliott detail 4    Glare by Rachel Elliott detail 2   Glare by Rachel Elliott detail 1

The Perth Hare, or Glare, is a unique piece, twinning this iconic local creature with the historic images of the city itself. Always popular with our visitors, it forms the centrepiece of Dazzle, the current exhibition at Perth Museum and Art Gallery.

Like Cook’s Collection by James Maskrey, which was the subject of a previous post From Australasia – Antarctica (via Perth Museum and Art Gallery), Glare was created for the exhibition Trove, a collaboration with the Scottish Glass Society. Invited artists created new works inspired by artefacts from the museum’s reserve collection. Glare draws on both the natural history collection and the Magnus Jackson Photography collection. In creating it, Rachel Elliott incorporated several pioneering elements; it was the first time she had used the technique of water-jet cutting, the first time she had worked on such a large single piece of glass and the first time she had screen-printed kiln-fired enamels on this scale.

The glass collection at Perth Museum and Art Gallery is a Recognised Collection of National Significance based on the history of glass production in Perthshire; Glare is part of an initiative to extend the collection with examples of glass by contemporary makers.

Henriette Ebbesen Laidlaw
Digital Content Officer
Perth and Kinross Cultural Services