The choice of Christmas card by Scotland's First Minister has recently been unveiled. Oh the pressure. He must have had a whole team working on this! I know I have terrible trouble choosing between a happy Rudolph full of festive fun, or a contemplative snow scene filled with an optimistic warm glow.
The painting is entitled Bella Caledonia, but the character of Bella first appeared in one of Alasdair Gray's novels, Poor Things. As he explains, “The original is lost long ago, but I have painted different versions of Bella. I changed the hat to a Glengarry and put a tartan plaid over her shoulder. The character is a strong woman with an enquiring mind and a sense of social justice, the qualities we would like Scotland to have also.”
This explains the First Minister's choice, but there is much more to Bella's character than that.
Poor Things has been described as a postmodern revision of Mary Shelly's Frankenstein, with Bella Baxter as the central character, that of the monster. Having met her demise, she then becomes the centre of a love triangle, brought back to life with the brain of an infant . . . . I love Alasdair Gray - I so want to read this book now!
It has to be noted that the beautiful Bella is deliberately illustrated in a pose similar to that other genius's painting, the Mona Lisa. Just a Christmas card?
I think it's fabulous that like all great art, there is so much more to this work than immediately meets the eye.