A LEADING art expert has revealed that the earliest known image of a Scottish landscape was painted by a Dutch master.

Professor Duncan Macmillan, writing in the latest issue of Scottish Art News, reveals that Pieter Bruegel the Elder produced a depiction of the Bass Rock, in the Firth of Forth, including gannets, in the engraving The Fall of Icarus (1560-65).

Professor Macmillan, a long time academic and art critic, said: "Until now this image has been overlooked simply because it is the wrong way round due to the printing process.

"Reverse it and it is clearly the Bass Rock seen from North Berwick.

"The engraving by Frans Huys is signed Bruegel and is presumably after a drawing.

"It is a very different composition and interpretation of the story from the famous painting of the Fall of Icarus in Brussels.”


Professor Macmillan said that the Bass Rock was a well known feature at the time, and it was not surprising that Bruegel knew of it.

He said it is likely that Bruegel himself (who lived from 1525 to 1569) had not seen the rock, but had copied the image from another artist.

Other images of Scotland from an earlier dates were "entirely fanciful", he writes.

Gannets, preserved in some way, were eaten by Scotland's trading partners in the Netherlands.

"There is some satisfaction," he said, “in being able to say that the earliest known image of Scotland is by one of Europe's greatest artists.”

James Knox, the director of the Fleming Collection, which publishes Scottish Arts News, said: "Art scholarship especially pre-1900 is an increasingly rare commodity which is why the Fleming Collection is delighted to support Duncan Macmillan’s landmark discovery in Scotland’s art history."