Highland Monarch is one of the many representations of animals in the Scottish Highland that Eugene-Joseph Verboeckhoven produced in the 1860s and 1870s. The sheep, with their black-and-white mottled faces, curved horns, and bulky coats are typical of a Highland variety still commonly seen today. The mountainous landscape and cottages in the background create an appropriate setting. While difficult to make out because of his small size, the shepherd in the distant meadow appears to wear traditional Scottish garb.
Verboeckhoven’s high standards of craftsmanship meant attention to detail, care in composition, and careful execution. It is evident that the artist worked out the composition with an eye to balance before he touched brush to canvas. The sheep pose on converging diagonals that span the picture plane. The eye is taken back from the immediate foreground, along the stone wall of the enclosure to the lit meadow to the distant peaks obscured by clouds. Such careful planning establishes an overall harmony that is reinforced by gentle colors.