(An Appeal from Ken Stewart and John McRitchie)
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The painting shown above was part of Ken Stewart's childhood home in Glasgow, but he never
then thought to ask where it had come from, or why it should be part and parcel of the Stewart household.|
One evening last year he showed the painting to his good friend John McRitchie, and that set in train this appeal for help.
As an ex 'star gazer', or in more prosaic terms, a deck officer in the Merchant Navy, the painting immediately caught John's fancy. The vessel was obviously a late 19th or early 20th century steamer, registered in Glasgow and with the rather odd name of Queen Margorit. Importantly for John, the artist had gone to the trouble of giving prominence to her owner's house flag--white background, red diamond and blue D--could that be traced? And what about the flowers and the bunting? The flowers were forget-me-nots, which seemed to be self-explanatory, and the bunting had on it the word MIZPAH
MIZPAH, meaning Watch-tower, is from the book of Genesis (31:49). It concerns one of the several stories about Jacob, the younger son of Isaac and Rebecca. In this particular story Jacob fled from his uncle Laban's household taking with him his two wives, who were Laban's daughters, their two slave girls and large herds of animals. Laban followed with vengeance in his heart, and would probably have killed Jacob had he not been visited in a dream by angels who told him not to harm Jacob. On catching up with Jacob Laban scolded him, but did not harm him. Instead, he and Jacob swore a covenant before a cairn of stones as witness built by Jacob and named MIZPAH, and Laban said:
May the Lord watch between you and me, when we are parted from each other's sight. If you ill-treat my daughters or take other wives beside them when no one is there to see, God be witness between us.Scots reared in the Presbyterian tradition were very familiar with the tales of Jacob. The artist who executed the painting may have been a Scots Presbyterian; certainly he or she knew the story of Mizpah. The interpretations that can be put upon the tale no doubt vary, but it would seem that the artist was saying that should he (if it were a he) or, assuming that the painting was given to a loved one, the recipient of the painting, stray when they were parted and apparently unobserved, God would know.