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“Saint Bride” by John Duncan

"Saint Bride" by John Duncan

“Saint Bride” by John Duncan

“Saint Bride” by John Duncan delicts the legend of Saint Bride who was transported miraculously to Bethlehem to attend the nativity of Christ. Ducan shows two angels carrying the saint in white robes across the sea in a seascape setting that reflects the artist’s fascination with the Outer Hebrides and the Isle of Iona. The realistic depiction of birds, the seal, sea and sky provide a naturalistic contrast to the supernatural angels overlapping the patterned border.

Scenes from the life of Christ, which are framed by Celtic motifs, decorate the angel’s robes. The motifs are reminiscent of the illuminations from the “Book of Kells” and reflects Brigid’s legend of having founded a school of art and illumination in Ireland. The “Book of Kells” is an illuminated manuscript Gospel created in a monastery in either Britain or Ireland. It is a masterwork of Western calligraphy and represents the pinnacle of Hiberno-Saxon art and is regarded as Ireland’s finest national treasure. This painting blends Hiberno-Saxon art of the “Book of Kells” and more modern Celtic Revival art movement.

Brigid of Kildare

Saint Brigid of Kildare or Brigid of Ireland (c. 451 – 525) is one of Ireland’s patron saints. Irish tradition has her as an early Irish Christian nun and foundress of several monasteries of nuns, including that of Kildare in Ireland, which was famous and revered. The saint shares her name with an important Celtic goddess, and there are many legends and folk customs associated with her.

Kilbride, “Church of Brigid,” is one of Ireland’s most widely found placenames, there are 43 Kilbrides located in  Ireland.

John Duncan

John Duncan (1866-1945) was a Scottish painter, who at the age of 15 he was submitting cartoons to the local magazine. He briefly worked in London as a commercial illustrator, then travelled study at the Düsseldorf Art Academy. In 1892 Duncan moved to Edinburgh and joined the Celtic Revival movement. In 1900 Duncan was appointed as a Professor at the Chicago Institute for a period before returning to Scotland and settled in Edinburgh, where he lived for the rest of his life.


  • How many different art styles have been combined into this one painting?
  • Does this image feel like a dream?
  • A creative work of imagination and beauty?

Saint Bride

  • Title:             Saint Bride
  • Artist:           John Duncan
  • Year:            1913
  • Medium:      Tempera on canvas
  • Dimensions: 122.30 x 144.50 cm
  • Museum:      Scottish National Gallery

John Duncan

  • Artist:               Paul Gauguin
  • Born:                1866, Dundee, Scotland
  • Died:                1945, Edinburgh, Scotland
  • Nationality:      Scottish
  • Movement:      Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, Primitivism
  • Notable works:

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“There are three classes of people:
Those who see.
Those who see when they are shown.
Those who do not see.”

– Leonardo da Vinci


Photo Credit: John Duncan (1866-1945) [Public domain]