The Scottish National Portrait Gallery
A distinctive landmark on Edinburgh’s Queen Street, the Scottish National Portrait Gallery is a grand, neo-gothic building in red sandstone. The north- and east-facing sides feature an elaborate scheme of decorative sculptures. Poets, monarchs and statesmen watch over Queen Street and North St Andrew Street, while William Wallace and Robert the Bruce guard the entrance.
Once inside the building, the Main Hall proves a breathtaking introduction to Scottish history. Along the first-floor balustrade runs a processional or pageant frieze that depicts many famous Scots in reverse chronological order. Starting with Thomas Carlyle, it was designed as a ‘visual encyclopaedia’ and includes figures such as David Livingstone, James Watt, Robert Burns, Adam Smith, David Hume, the Stuart monarchs, Robert the Bruce and Saint Ninian. The artist, William Hole, also painted a series of large-scale murals on the first floor. Like the frieze, these paintings of scenes from Scottish history are as much a part of the fabric of the building as the memorial to its founder, John Ritchie Findlay, on the ground floor. His was the first contemporary portrait to be commissioned for the Gallery.