Jacob Thompson’s painting of druids engaged in the ancient ritual of gathering mistletoe is not only a masterly depiction of a romantic scene, but also a social document of rich value to the people of Penrith.

Thompson was born in the Cumbrian town and first worked as a sign painter before a local patron, William, Earl of Lonsdale, encouraged him to train at the Royal Academy Schools of Art in London. He quickly excelled and became a successful portrait painter with a studio in Hanover Square. But Cumbria was in Thompson’s blood and in 1841 he returned to live in the area with his wife and child, earning his living by painting local scenes and exhibiting regularly at the Royal Academy. The Druids Cutting Down the Mistletoe shows figures at work in a wooded clearing in the Eden Valley, the magnificent Bronze Age stone circle of Long Meg and Her Daughters clearly visible in the distance. According to Thompson’s biographer, Llewellyn Jewitt, the painting was commissioned by Colonel Samuel Lacy, owner of the monument and surrounding land. The painting now joins other works by Thompson in the Penrith and Eden Museum, which is just five miles from the scene it shows, and provides an evocative example of how prehistoric sites were admired and represented by Victorian artists.


Sold at Sotheby’s, 1978 as the property of ‘J Gunther Esq’; acquired by the husband of the current vendor in 1978. An Art Loss Register search has been carried out.

Penrith and Eden Museum

Robinson's School, Middlegate, Penrith, Cumbria, CA11 7PT
01768 865105

Opening times

Apr – Sep
Mon – Sat, 10am – 5pm
Sun, 11am – 4pm

Mid-Oct – Mar
Mon – Sat, 10am – 4pm

Back to top