Monarch of the Glen
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Arty Fact

More about Monarch of the Glen

wbillingsley's picture


This is actually one of the most famous paintings in the world.

I know you are thinking, “But if that’s true, why don’t I recognize it?” The thing is you do, just not as a piece of art. This stag is everywhere: at one point it was used in the promotion of Dewar Whiskey, there is a BBC drama about it, and, most importantly, it is the logo for the number one best-selling butter brand in the western world. That's right, Challenge Butter sports this painting, miniaturized, on the side of all its boxes. The company doesn’t admit this formally, however the image is identical, down to the location of the points of the stag's horns. The company does admit that it got its name from a portrait of two stags fighting and, sure enough, there exists another painting by Henry Landseer called The Challenge that pictures two stags about to duke it out.

In the art world, this work holds a lot more meaning than as a symbol for booze or butter. The whole majestic mammal standing in the misty mountains is a cornerstone of the classical Scottish aesthetic. The area is portrayed as this old and untamed land in the north that is still in touch with its roots. The problem with this is that Sir Edwin Henry Landseer isn’t Scottish, nor was he some sort of expert on the area north of the United Kingdoms. This painting was also not made for Scotland, but for the House of Lords, which is a long way from Edinburgh. Really, if anything, it represents the tourism that has occurred in Scotland for the past two hundred years. As a result, some people in Scotland would really like it if some other work could be hallowed as an icon for the country, instead of the famous butter deer. 




  1. Jeffrey, Moria “The death of the monarch? Is Monarch of the Glen, symbol of Scotland, a blessing or a burden? Moira Jeffrey seeks five answers” The Herald 04/01/2005
  2. Landseer ,Erwin Henry “The Challenge” The Met viewed on 10/18/2019
  3. Nationalgalleries “‘The Monarch of the Glen' by Edwin Landseer” 02/27/2018
  4. Web Contributor “Our Story” viewed on 10/18/2019

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Here is what Wikipedia says about The Monarch of the Glen (painting)

The Monarch of the Glen is an oil-on-canvas painting of a red deer stag completed in 1851 by the English painter Sir Edwin Landseer. It was commissioned as part of a series of three panels to hang in the Palace of Westminster in London. As one of the most popular paintings throughout the 19th century, it sold widely in reproductions in steel engraving, and was finally bought by companies to use in advertising. The painting had become something of a cliché by the mid-20th century, as "the ultimate biscuit tin image of Scotland: a bulky stag set against the violet hills and watery skies of an isolated wilderness", according to the Sunday Herald.

The stag has twelve points on his antlers, which in deer terminology makes him a "royal stag" but not a "monarch stag", for which sixteen points are needed.

In 2017 the National Galleries of Scotland in Edinburgh launched a successful campaign to buy the painting for £4 million, finally achieving the acquisition. The painting is now part of the collection, and is on display at the Scottish National Gallery in Room 12.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about The Monarch of the Glen (painting).