Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: The Refusal by Sir David Wilkie, RA

The Refusal
Sir David Wilike, 1814
The Victoria & Albert Museum
Duncan Gray cam here to woo,
Ha, ha, the wooing o't,
On blythe Yule Night when we were fu',
Ha, ha, the wooing o't,
Maggie coost her head fu' high,\
Looked asklent and unco skeigh,
Gart poor Duncan stand abeigh;
Ha, ha, the wooing o't.

Duncan fleeched, and Duncan prayed;
Ha, ha, the wooing o't,
Meg was deaf as Ailsa Craig;
Ha, ha, the wooing o't,
Duncan sighed baith out and in,
Grat his een baith bleer't and blin',
Spak o' lowpin ower a linn;
Ha, ha, the wooing o't.

--Robert Burns

Robert Burn’s song, “Duncan Gray” was the inspiration for this painting which has been attributed to Sir David Wilkie, RA. The song, similar in theme, if not tone, to
Barbara Allen, is about a young lady’s refusal of a man who courts her, later changing her mind, but suffering in the process.

Here, we see Duncan in the moment after “the refusal” as Maggie sits coldly in front of him. Wilkie’s friend, the painter William Mulready, served as the model for Duncan.

This painting was one of eight by Wilkie that had been gifted to the V&A by John Sheepshanks (1784-1863), a wealthy art collector who promised his impressive collection of British art to the Nation after his death. The first permanent structure at the site of the V&A was built to house his collection.

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