John Runciman, 1744 - 1768. Artist (Self-portrait)

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John Runciman, 1744 - 1768. Artist (Self-portrait) 1767
  • Scottish Art
John Runciman received his early training in drawing and etching from his older brother, Alexander Runciman. In 1767 an advance for a commission to paint the saloon and staircases of Penicuik House enabled the brothers to travel to Italy. John's talent provoked jealousy from rivals within the expatriate artistic community in Rome, notably from James Nevay, a fellow Scot. This unpleasantness, together with ill-health, prompted him to leave for Naples after destroying much of his work. He died in Naples from tuberculosis before his brother could reach him. This self-portrait was painted shortly after John Runciman arrived in Rome. He seems to be pondering the greatness of Michelangelo's figure of Day, seen behind him.

Glossary Open


When an individual or organisation employs an artist to execute a particular project, the process and the resulting work are termed a ‘commission’.


A form of printmaking in which a metal plate is covered with a substance called a 'ground', usually wax, into which an image is drawn with a needle. Acid is applied, eroding the areas of the plate exposed but not the areas covered by wax. The action of the acid creates lines in the metal plate that hold the ink from which a print is made when the plate is pressed against paper under pressure.

Commission, Etching


  • Acc. No. PG 3546
  • Medium Oil on canvas
  • Size 68.70 x 55.60 cm (framed: 78.70 x 65.60 x 8.00 cm)
  • Credit David Laing bequest to the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. Gifted in 2009