Family search for lost Peploe painting of Edinburgh flower seller

A copy of the missing Peploe portrait of Edinburgh flower seller Jeanie Blyth, which her family are hoping to trace. PIC: Contributed.
A copy of the missing Peploe portrait of Edinburgh flower seller Jeanie Blyth, which her family are hoping to trace. PIC: Contributed.
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She was a teenage gypsy flower seller who sold blooms at the top of the Waverley Steps and caught the eye of one of Scotland's most celebrated artists.

Now the search is on for the missing portrait of Jeanie Blyth that was gifted to her by Samuel J Peploe, a leading figure in the Scottish Colourist movement, who went on to paint this enigmatic figure in secret for many years.

Three of the portraits Peploe completed of Jeanie Blyth, including The Green Blouse (centre). All are held by National Galleries of Scotland. PIC: NGS.

Three of the portraits Peploe completed of Jeanie Blyth, including The Green Blouse (centre). All are held by National Galleries of Scotland. PIC: NGS.

Linda Lennen, of Leven in Fife, the great granddaughter of Jeanie Blyth, has seen many portraits of her relative over time, a number which are held by National Galleries of Scotland.

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But one still proves elusive - the portrait that was gifted to the flower seller by the artist around the time of her wedding in 1901.

Ms Lennen said: "We think one of the members of the family sold it when they fell on hard times - all we have left are photocopies of the original which of course are very much treasured.

"My feeling is the painting was more than likely given to a pawn shop.

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"It is certainly not out there as a Peploe, because we would know about it if it was.

"It is nice to think that it could be sitting in someone's dusty attic somewhere.

"I remember the painting hanging on the wall of my grandmother's kitchen. It really was an everyday thing.

"But so many generations of the family have never seen it - I'd love to track it down."

Stanley Cursiter, Peploe's biographer and fellow artist, described Jeanie Blyth as a 'wonderful model' whose 'dark hair and rich colour and complete lack of self-consciousness allowed Peploe to paint many pictures'.

Jeanie is known to have lived in Edinburgh's Tanner's Close, which is infamously linked to the Burke and Hare story, at one point.

Ms Lennen researched Jeanie Blyth's story for her book Scotland's Other Royal Family, which charts the Gypsy Royals of Yetholm in The Borders, from which she is descended.

Scotland's last "Gypsy King", Charles Faa Blyth, was crowned in 1898.

Ms Lennen said Jeanie's husband, William, always admired the painting of her great grandmother although the attention made the flower seller uneasy.

She said: "Her husband knew nothing about Jeanie continuing modelling for Peploe. At that time, it is not the kind of thing that a traveller's wife would do.

"William would proudly bring it up in conversation. Jeanie did not welcome the attention this brought to her, and often said that 'she didni ken what all the fuss was about!'.

While it was not common knowledge that Jeanie continued to sit for Peploe, the artist produced many works including 'The Green Blouse", which is now owned by the National Galleries of Scotland.

Others are held in private collections.

Ms Lennen said: "It was not until 2010 as I researched my ancestors "The Gypsy Royals" and their descendants that the number of images of Jeanie painted by Peploe over many years became clear.

"She succeeded in keeping this secret during her lifetime."

Jeanie Blyth died at home in Bristo Street in 1939 aged 58.

Anyone with information about the missing painting can contact alison.campsie@jpimedia.co.uk