An historic painting depicting the game of shinty, which appeared to be lost for 50 years, has now been found and loaned to the nation.

The painting, A Highland Landscape with a Game of Shinty, is considered to be the most famous depiction of the Scottish sport and "one of the treasures of the game."

Attributed to the artists Daniel Cunliffe and A.Smith of Mauchline, East Ayrshire, it had not been seen in public since 1962.

A three year search by the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, who were in the process of putting together the Playing for Scotland exhibition, led curators to the private collection which belongs to a descendent of the last-known owner.

It has now been donated on a long term loan to the galleries and joins the exhibition about Scotland's rich sporting history.

The game depicted in the painting, it is believed, took place on the Cluny estate near Newtonmore, Inverness-shire.

Sticks - camans - are raised in action and the presence of pipers, dancers and refreshments suggest this match is a festival game, perhaps enjoyed at New Year.

The Badenoch and Strathspey Shinty Heritage Project believe the scene depicts one of the famous shinty ball-plays organised by Cluny Macpherson, Chief of Clan Chattan.

The setting and painting are believed to be the source of many depictions of shinty which followed from the mid-nineteenth century.

Shinty has been described as the oldest-known Celtic sport.

The Camanachd Association (CA) was founded in 1893 to lead the development of the game by ensuring there was one set of rules and a framework for organising competitions nationally.

Jim Barr, president of the Camanachd Association said: "The Camanachd Association is delighted that the iconic painting A Highland Landscape with a Game of Shinty has been located, and will be on display at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.

"We would like to thank the owner of the painting and the National Galleries of Scotland for displaying one of Scotland's most iconic and most important sporting paintings.

"The scene very much embodies the spirit of the game, which is still played in some of the most attractive settings in the world."

Christopher Baker, director of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, said: "After a three-year search, I'm delighted that A Highland Landscape with a Game of Shinty is now on long-term loan to the Scottish National Portrait Gallery and will be on display in Playing for Scotland.

"Our visitors can enjoy it amid many iconic artworks, brought together for the first time, which depict the nation's sports."

Playing for Scotland: the Making of Modern Sport is on show at the gallery until Spring next year.

Other works in the show include Charles Lees, The Golfers from 1847, Henry Raeburn's Dr Nathaniel Spens of Craigsanquhar painted in 1793, which is on loan from the Queen's Body Guard for Scotland (Royal Company of Archers) and William Reed's Leith Races painted about 1859.