Mary, Queen of Scots, Dividing her Jewels
Oil on canvas
Overall: 36 1/4 x 48 in. ( 92.1 x 121.9 cm ) frame: 49 1/2 x 61 1/2 x 4 in. (49 1/2 x 61 1/2 x 4 in.)
This painting, the second of two pictures Lang painted between 1860 and 1861 featuring Mary, Queen of Scots taking leave of her attendants just before her execution in 1587, was painted to order for Robert L. Stuart. It is obvious from descriptions of the placement of figures as well as titles that Mary, Queen of Scots, was the subject of two separate paintings by Lang within a year, of which the Society's study is the second. The "Fine Arts" column of the New York newspaper, The Century, January 21, 1860, commented that Lang "has just finished, for a gentleman of this city," an historical study which he called, The Last Supper of Mary, Queen of Scots, which was republished in The Crayon for February 1860. It is described as follows: "The time is the night before the memorable execution. The beautiful but misguided queen, her face still calm, serene and lovely, her figure robed in green velvet, occupies the centre of the picture, and stands on a raised dais, while her attendants, fourteen in number, and overcome with grief, are grouped about her in different attitudes. The queen, firm and erect, has just finished that address to her attendants which is familiar to every reader of history, and is about to raise the cup to her lips to drink a last pledge of affection for them. The venerable physician, as well as the surgeon of her household, occupies a position in the background, to the left. Little Mary Curly, her eyes wet with tears, leans sorrowfully on the bosom of the venerable man, who looks on in pity. Mrs. Kennedy, who forms one of this group, seems muttering a prayer, while Mrs. Curly kneels before the queen and invokes the interposition of the Allwise, while struggling to suppress her emotions. Prostrate at the foot of the dais, and before the queen, is her French maid of honor, offering her own life to save that of her royal mistress. The effect produced here is impressive and grand. The group to the right is composed of her maids of honor and other attendants, all finely distributed and effectively portrayed. The picture, as a whole, is bold and impressive, all the details of that painful event being clearly and delicately expressed." This was the painting which Lang exhibited at the National Academy in 1860 with the title Mary, Queen of Scots, lent from the collection of Charles M. Connolly, a New York tobacco merchant, 45 Water Street, whose country home was at Fort Washington on upper Manhattan Island. The June issue of The Crayon, in commenting on the Academy exhibition, referred to the painting on display and stated that the "condemned queen is formally taking leave of her attendants, and at the same time performing a religious rite by partaking of the communion cup, her jailors have refused her a priest," and commented that Lang's study "is his best performance, showing more dramatic power and chastness of color than heretofore."Lang's picture evidently turned out so well that by the end of the year he had another study in preparation for Robert L. Stuart. It was described in The Crayon for December 1860 as follows: "Lang has a cartoon completed of a scene in the prison-life of Mary, Queen of Scots, representing the Queen in the act of dividing her property among he friends and attendants the day before her execution. This composition is his happiest effort." This is the study now in the Society's collection.
The Robert L. Stuart Collection, the gift of his widow Mrs. Mary Stuart
Due to ongoing research, information about this object is subject to change.