This anonymous watercolour shows the ruins of the ancient monastery on Oronsay, a small island off the coast of Colonsay in Scotland. The Abbey building was built in the 14th century by John MacDonald, Lord of the Isles, but the priory itself is thought to date from the 7th century when St Columba stayed here before moving on to the island of Iona to establish an abbey there. The Oronsay Cross can be seen to the left of the watercolour, however this Celtic monument was originally carved by highly skilled masons on the island of Iona. Both the cross and the abbey are very well preserved, due, in part, to the island’s remote location and its subsequent escape from the destruction of the Reformation, as well as the centuries of care and attention given to the site by local residents.
The watercolour was completed in 1772, and a handwritten note states ‘Engraved in Pennant, ii.234’. The scene appeared as an illustration to Thomas Pennant’s popular volume A Tour in Scotland, and Voyage to the Hebrides 1772 (1774).