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'Kenneth James Matheson'

This three-minute audio clip describes the sculpture Kenneth James Matheson by Alexander Munro (1825–1871).

Full audio description text

This sculpture is a three-dimensional marble bust. It depicts the head and shoulders of a boy, aged about seven and is slightly smaller than life-sized. Carved in smooth, white marble, it is about 50 cm tall, including the short round pedestal, or socle, on which it stands, carved from the same block. The bust is displayed in a glass cabinet on the first floor of Inverness Museum and Art Gallery, and is accessible by lift. The sculpture is positioned at the entrance to a display that focuses on art, music and costume.

The bust is a portrait of a boy called Kenneth James Matheson. He has a serene expression, his face turned slightly to his right. He has long flowing hair, parted to one side and falling to his shoulders, where it curls into thick ringlets. He wears a buttoned tunic with a wide, scalloped lace collar, tied at the throat with tassels. The details and delicate textures of these materials are represented with great accuracy by the sculptor, Alexander Munro.

Alexander Munro was born in Inverness, in 1825, to a working-class family and attended the Inverness Academy where his talent was encouraged. He was fortunate to get a job in London with the renowned architect Charles Barry, working on the stonework and sculpted decoration of the new Houses of Parliament. Whilst in London, Munro became friends with the group of artists who called themselves the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. His Romantic style and attention to detail are in keeping with the Pre-Raphaelite ideals.

Kenneth was born in 1854 and his sister Mary Isabella the following year, 1855. That same year the children's mother Lavinia tragically died after falling from a cliff near their home in Kintail. Their father, Alexander Matheson, was a successful businessman, landowner, and Liberal MP for Inverness. In 1860 he remarried and the following year he commissioned Munro to sculpt portraits of both of his children. The pair to this bust of Kenneth, featuring Mary as a similar Victorian idealised vision of childhood, also belongs to Inverness Museum and Art Gallery.

Bust of Mary Isabella Matheson

Art UK and VocalEyes

This audio description was created by VocalEyes for Art UK Sculpture, a national project to document and increase access to the UK's publicly owned sculpture. This description is one of 25 representing sculpture collections across the UK.


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