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10 Artworks You Must See in Edinburgh
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10 Artworks You Must See in Edinburgh

Picture of Tori Chalmers
Updated: 1 June 2017
Between them, Edinburgh’s National Galleries of Scotland and their accompanying collections of over 100,000 artworks house a great number of masterpieces, including greats like Titian, Rubens, Da Vinci, Rembrandt and Botticelli. From the mesmerising to the mad, explore our guide to the top must-see artworks in Edinburgh.

Scottish National Gallery

Revd Robert Walker Skating On Duddingston Loch by Sir Henry Raeburn

Renowned for its unique composition and setting, Reverend Robert Walker Skating on Duddingston Loch or The Skating Minister by Scots portrait painter Sir Henry Raeburn features a lone skater performing a sophisticated pose on the loch near Arthur’s Seat. Since 1949, this oil painting, which was painted during the Scottish Enlightenment, has served as one of the most renowned Scottish paintings. Interestingly, 2005 saw an attribution conflict when an art curator suggested the artist was actually Frenchman Henri-Pierre Danloux, although the gallery director believes it is indeed Raeburn.

Sir Henry Raeburn, The Reverend Robert Walker Skating On Duddingston Loch, c.1795 | Courtesy Of Tori Chalmers
Sir Henry Raeburn, The Reverend Robert Walker Skating On Duddingston Loch, c.1795 | Courtesy Of Tori Chalmers

The Three Ages Of Man by Titian (Tiziano Vecellio)

Titian’s The Three Ages of Man is an allegory for the fleeting nature of life itself. Between a winged cupid and star-crossed lovers, in tandem with the church and old man pontificating over two skulls, there’s a lot to be said about the goings-on in this oil on canvas in The Scottish National Gallery .

The Three Ages Of Man by Titian (Tiziano Vecellio) | © WikiCommons
The Three Ages Of Man by Titian (Tiziano Vecellio) | © WikiCommons

The Virgin And Child (‘Bridgewater Madonna’) by Raphael

Although the majority of works by High Renaissance painter and architect Raphael are in the Vatican Palace, The Virgin And Child (‘Bridgewater Madonna’) adorns Edinburgh’s Scottish National Gallery. All eyes rest upon the naturalistic yet synchronized pose between Virgin and Child due to Raphael painting over the initial landscape background.

Raphael (Raffaello Sanzio), The Bridgewater Madonna, About 1508 | Courtesy Of Tori Chalmers
Raphael (Raffaello Sanzio), The Bridgewater Madonna, About 1508 | Courtesy Of Tori Chalmers

A Vase Of Flowers by Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin

Art lover or not, it’s impossible not to marvel at the calculated restraint and mastery of simplicity demonstrated by 18th-century painter Chardin in one of his most renowned paintings. Housed in the Scottish National Gallery, this striking artwork is Chardin’s only surviving flower piece. The alluring nature of the light and meticulously balanced composition surrounding the flowers painted by this master of light is quite remarkable.

Jean-Baptiste Siméon Chardin Vase Of Flowers Early 1760s | Courtesy Of Tori Chalmers
Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin Vase Of Flowers Early 1760s | Courtesy Of Tori Chalmers

Scottish National Portrait Gallery

Robert Burns by Alexander Nasmyth

Housed in the fabulous Gothic revival Scottish National Portrait Gallery amidst a sea of famous Scots faces, is a rather captivating portrait of Scottish Bard Robert Burns. The work of Scottish landscape and portrait painter Alexander Nasmyth, this oil on canvas piece was bequeathed by Colonel William Burns in 1872.

Robert Burns By Alexander Nasmyth | © WikiCommons
Robert Burns By Alexander Nasmyth | © WikiCommons

The Family Of John Hay, 1st Marquess Tweeddale by Sir John Baptiste de Medina

Attributed to Flemish-Spanish portrait painter Sir John Baptiste de Medina, this painting of the family of John Hay, the 1st Marquess of Tweeddale and Lord High Chancellor of Scotland, portrays an intriguing glimpse into the personalities of his family members. The expressions on each face capture the moment, inviting the viewer to think what on earth was being discussed!

Princess Elizabeth And Princess Anne, Daughters of Charles, I, 1637 by Sir Anthony van Dyck

Out of the museum’s 3000 paintings and sculptures, in addition with the 25,000 prints and drawings and 38,000 photographs (yes, there are that many), this intimate portrait of Princesses Elizabeth and Anne shows a tender glimpse of them as infants. The glow radiating from the pearls and use of light upon the bunnet is all thanks to the artistic prowess of Flemish Baroque artist painter Sir Anthony van Dyck.

Princess Elizabeth And Princess Anne, Daughters of Charles, I, 1637 By Sir Anthony van Dyck | © WikiCommons
Princess Elizabeth And Princess Anne, Daughters of Charles, I, 1637 By Sir Anthony van Dyck | © WikiCommons

Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art

Landform by Charles Jencks

Landform by highly acclaimed American architect and architectural historian Charles Jencks is an unmissable visual tie between the buildings of Modern One and Modern Two. Through combining a mix of garden and land art and sculpture, Jencks provides some food for thought and a stunning precursor to the wondrous potion of works inside both galleries and also the maze of sculptural masterpieces — including the evocative ‘There Will Be No Miracles Here’ sign by Nathan Coley and Domino by Eduardo Paolozzi.

Landform By Charles Jencks | © John Lord/Flickr
Landform By Charles Jencks | © John Lord/Flickr

Tragic Form (Skate) 2014 by Ken Currie

The year 2016 saw the arrival of Tragic Form (Skate) 2014 by renowned Scottish artist Ken Currie, a most eye-opening piece and integral component of his artistic journey. This sizeable painting can be located in Modern One and certainly can’t be missed.

Vulcan by Eduardo Paolozzi

Made from welded steel between 1998 and 1999, Vulcan is an enormous, imposing sculpture by Scots sculptor Eduardo Paolozzi, of which the Scottish National Galleries hold many of his works. Vulcan, the Roman God of Fire and Blacksmith for weapons of war, is used by Paolozzi as an archetypal sculptor figure. This half machine, half man monument is a take on the modern era and sculptural narrative about current life and accompanying morals.

Vulcan By Eduardo Paolozzi | © WikiCommons
Vulcan By Eduardo Paolozzi | © WikiCommons