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Article published 31/03/2023

In a press release from The Black Watch Castle and Museum, the five-star visitor attraction has announced that two items from its museum collection have been loaned to V&A Dundee for its new Tartan exhibition.

The Tartan exhibition opens on 1 April, marking V&A Dundee's fifth year in the city. The exhibition aims to take a radical new look at the instantly recognisable textile and pattern.

The Museum shares the story of The Black Watch’s regimental history, spanning over almost three centuries. The Black Watch tartan plays an integral part of the Regiment’s history, and it's believed that the name of the Regiment was inspired by the dark colour of the tartan worn by the soldiers and their original role to "watch" over the Highlands.

The first loaned item is a tall ceramic mug, titled "An old performer playing on a new instrument, or one of the 42nd touching the Invincible".

Originally drawn by artist S.W Fores around 1803, it's decorated with a caricature that depicts a soldier of the 42nd Black Watch Regiment carrying Napoleon under his arm like a set of bagpipes. The mug commemorates the 1801 British victory over the French at Alexandria and is a key example of tartan as propaganda.

Ceramic mug on loan from the Black Watch Castle and Museum
Ceramic mug on loan to the Tartan exhibition at V&A Dundee from The Black Watch Castle and Museum.

The second loaned item is the framed coloured print, "Les Grapilleurs", which will be displayed in the "Tartan and Identity" section of the exhibition.

It shows a large Scottish soldier dressed in a feather bonnet and kilt, eating grapes with one hand, and holding the edges of his kilt up with the other hand to cradle more grapes. In the background, three other soldiers can be seen picking and eating grapes from the vineyard.

The presence of kilted regiments in Paris following the Napoleonic Wars sparked a French fascination for tartan and kilts. This satirical print pokes fun at the novelty of Highland dress and addresses the eroticised curiosity of what a Scotsman hides beneath his kilt, with the humorous innuendo of the soldier grappling with a bunch of grapes.

Find out more and read the full press release.

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