Upon hearing that the National Galleries of Scotland have joined the Flickr Commons project, one word immediately springs to mind.
There may be a better tribute to the country that brought the world the gift of the Scottish Enlightenment, bedrock of the best aspects of modernity, than a collection of kilts. However, running a Commons search for “kilt” had revealed only two kilt-related images from all of the existing Commons institutions.
Imperial War Museum
This first result, from the Imperial War Museum, has stood alone in satisfying the requirement for archetypal kilt imagery in the Commons collection since it was first uploaded in November of last year. Unfortunately, it also includes two individuals who not only are kiltless but obscure the kilt by standing in front of it!
The second result, from the New York Public Library, shows no fewer than three kilt-clad Scottish boys. It is likely that these boys were recent immigrants, asked to dress in holiday finery by photographer Augustus Sherman, the Ellis Island Chief Registry Clerk.
While the photo contains many kilts, prominently displayed, the circumstances and human interest of the photograph largely overwhelms a sense of undiluted “Kilty-ness”
New York Public Library
While a search for Plaid provided 14 results, showing the full extent of the Scottish tartan’s cultural influence, clearly, a large infusion of Kilt was needed in The Commons collection. This is where the National Galleries of Scotland came in, adding an additional 6 kilt-related photos in their first batch of uploads, quadrupling the Commons kilt collection overnight.
The new wealth of results includes this incredible image of John Sobieski Stolberg-Stuart.
An Englishman from Wales originally named John Carter Allen, he moved to Scotland with his brother and adopted the alias “John Sobieski Stuart”. Claiming to be the grandsons of Bonnie Prince Charlie, the two brothers learned Gaelic, hobnobbed with Scottish nobility, and published the controversial Vestiarium Scoticum — an “inventive” book on the history of Highland dress. Although quickly exposed as inauthentic, many of its designs and patterns passed into the realm of official clan tartans!
National Galleries of Scotland
So not only do the National Galleries of Scotland bring us a wealth of flashy-looking kilts, in the process, they bring us the incredible story of a historical charlatan and his influence on the development of the kilt itself.