Leith artist creates altar to go on display in Stirling Castle

HE is used to restoring ancient works of art to their former glory.

But Leith artist Owen Davison has created his own 16th century piece of royal artwork from scratch after undertaking his most unusual commission to date.

Mr Davison, from The Conservation Studio in Duke Street, was tasked with producing an altarpiece befitting Mary of Guise, the widow of King James V and mother of Mary, Queen of Scots.

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The religious piece will become one of the most impressive focal points in the newly-restored royal palace within Stirling Castle.

The triptych features the Madonna and Child, with St Clare and St Cecilia painted on the wings.

The piece has been created to take pride of place in the Queen's bedchamber within the palace - which has been restored by Historic Scotland at a cost of 12 million - as she was known to have been highly religious.

Mr Davison, 47, spent months creating the piece, and had to go on a course to learn the specific painting technique which would have been used in the early 16th century.

He said: "Most of my work is restoring old paintings and although I still paint, I hadn't done anything like this before.

"It was a bit of a learning curve as I had to do it the way that the Flemish school painted at that time.

"The initial painting was done with tempera, which uses egg yokes as a binder.

"It's completely different to the modern way where you squeeze paint out of a tube.

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"I did a lot of research and went on a course with a chap who teaches this technique.

"The idea was that this altar would have been something Mary of Guise would have brought with her from France when she got married.

"I've done all sorts of things in restoration but this is definitely the most unusual commission I've had."

The altar will be admired by millions of visitors from all over the world following the grand opening of Stirling Castle's royal palace on June 4 and 5.

The palace was built by King James V within the castle walls and its six great royal apartments have been restored by Historic Scotland to how it may have looked in the 1540s.

Mr Davison added: "I'm looking forward to seeing it in the actual room it was designed for."

Gillian Macdonald, Stirling Castle's executive manager, said: "We have employed some of the very best traditional artists and craftsmen in the UK and Europe to help redecorate the palace - and thanks to all they have done the end result is breathtaking.

"Owen's religious painting is absolutely wonderful, and is one of the real highlights of the Queen's Bedchamber, which is really saying something as the whole apartment is incredibly sumptuous.

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"I hope that if Mary of Guise was able to see it she would feel very pleased with what we've done."