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The Highlander’s Home (Sunshine in the Cottage)

John Phillip

Artwork Details

The Highlander’s Home (Sunshine in the Cottage)
John Phillip
oil on canvas
20 15/16 in. x 27 1/4 in. ( 53.2 cm x 69.2 cm )
Museum purchase made possible by the Alfred E. Pernt Memorial Fund in honor of Doctor of Technical Sciences Max H. J. Pernt and his wife Anna Pernt (née Mueller)


John Philip’s "The Highlander’s Home (Sunshine in the Cottage)" is an excellent example of Scottish genre painting by an artist rarely found in American collections. The painting depicts a humble interior occupied by a young mother watching over her infant asleep in a cradle, recalling Madonna and Child imagery. The beam of light piercing the window, evocative of divine presence, focuses the viewer’s attention on the figures at the center of the composition. Because paintings of everyday life (genre paintings) can suggest moralizing and didactic messages, the Victorian viewers of "The Highlander’s Home" may have read this modest cottage scene, with its strong religious overtones, as a reminder that beatific young mothers and cherubic children took center stage in the domestic sphere of Victorian Britain.
(C. McNamara, 18th-19th Century Gallery installation, early 1999)

Subject Matter:

This is a genre painting which shows the interior of a Scottish farmhouse in the mid-19th century. It is a realistic portrayal of farm life showing the rustic conditions of this home. The room has a stone floor with rough stone and plank walls. Many household items are painted in detail, including a spinning wheel, a wooden chair and a wooden cradle. The sheep dog is resting by the hearth.Yet John Phillip has also included a sentimental element. A mother attending to her infant is the central focus of the composition. This gentle moment of motherhood is highlighted by a ray of sunshine that streams from the open window to illuminate the sleeping baby's face. Other details such as the books, flowers and hourglass on the window sill further relate his portrayal of the humble but noble life of a Scottish Highlander.

Physical Description:

This painting shows the interior of a rustic house with a stone floor and rough rock walls. In the center foreground, a woman is crouched beside a wooden cradle. She has her arms around a sleeping baby whose face is highlighted by a ray of sunshine coming from an open window. Household items hang from the rafters and there is a spinning wheel beside her. A dog sits by an open hearth on the left. The color scheme is predominantly tones of brown, except for her red scarf, green shirt and the bluish purple of the hills seen outside the window.

Usage Rights:

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