The Best Wee Nation & The World

  • Paintings, Sculpture, Works on Paper
    30 min
    8 works
  • Can we see ourselves as others see us? This trail will take you around the world to look for evidence of Scottish influence.

Scottish National Portrait Gallery / Second floor

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Portrait Second floor
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    Sir Archibald Acheson, 1583-1634. Secretary of State (1631), by George Jamesone

    Between 1621 and 1632 Scotland made a first serious attempt to establish an overseas colony. New England, New Netherland, New France, and New Spain already existed, so why not New Scotland? Sir Archibald Acheson is wearing the badge of the Order of the Baronetcy of Nova Scotia which he was granted for helping to fund the venture. It is decorated with the saltire and the arms of Scotland.

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    Location: Scottish National Portrait Gallery / Second floor / Gallery 2

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    Major Hugh Montgomerie, later 12th Earl of Eglinton (1739-1819), by John Singleton Copley

    A century later fighting for the British Empire in South Carolina, an officer of a Highland regiment is painted to embody British heroism. Montgomerie triumphs over the Native Americans, here depicted with athletic, idealised bodies. Unruffled by combat, he directs his troops in the destruction of Cherokee villages. The Cherokees would later prove loyal to the British Crown during the American War of Independence.

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    Location: Scottish National Portrait Gallery / Second floor / Gallery 6

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    Lord Mungo Murray, 1668 – 1700. Son of 1st Marquess of Atholl (about 1683), by John Michael Wright

    The Darien Scheme was Scotland’s second attempt to establish a trading colony, this time in Panama in 1698. It bankrupted the country and contributed to the Union with England of 1707. A portrait of the teenage Murray, decked out in traditional Scottish Highland dress, does not betray any hint of his future role in this episode. He was killed in 1700 fighting the Spanish in defence of the colony.

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    Location: Scottish National Portrait Gallery / Second floor / Gallery 6

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    Sir William Forbes of Pitsligo, 1739 - 1806. Banker and author (1786), by Sir Joshua Reynolds

    Over 150 years after the failure of the New Scotland colony, Forbes is painted wearing the badge of the Order of the Baronetcy of Nova Scotia. Although the origins of Nova Scotia as a province stem from this venture, the territory was signed over to the French in 1631, just ten years after it had been created. This painting clearly shows the detailed design of the medal. Inherited from his great-great-great-grandfather, it is worn by the Forbes descendants today.

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    Location: Scottish National Portrait Gallery / Second floor / Gallery 7

Scottish National Portrait Gallery / First floor

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Portrait First floor
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    Scroll depicting the journey of Sir Ronald Ross, 1857 - 1932, in discovering the anopheles mosquito as the carrier of malaria (2010), by Gurupada Chitrakar

    By the middle of the nineteenth century Scots had penetrated every corner of the British Empire. Let’s cross the ocean to India where they made up a disproportionate number of colonial officials. This scroll charts Sir Ronald Ross’s discovery of the link between mosquitoes and malaria. In the ninth panel the Bengali artist commemorates Husein Khan, and Indian malaria patient who was paid to be fed on by mosquitoes. Is the artist acknowledging the debt that many imperial pioneers owed to local populations?

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    Location: Scottish National Portrait Gallery / First floor / Gallery 11

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    (Lady) Naomi Mitchison, 1897 - 1999. Author (1938), by Percy Wyndham Lewis

    A prolific author, shown here deep in concentration, Mitchison wrote a series of books on African themes. Her writings were inspired by her links with the Bakgatla tribe of Botswana for whom she became an adopted tribal ‘mother’. Mitchison has been praised for her nuanced depiction of colonial relationships. However, she has also been criticised for insisting that as a member of the Bakgatla she could ‘think and feel as an African’.

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    Location: Scottish National Portrait Gallery / First floor / Gallery 11

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    Robert Bontine Cunninghame Graham, 1852 - 1936. Writer and traveller (1891), by Albert Toft

    This striking bust suggests the dynamic personality of the great adventurer who at the age of seventeen set out to become a South American gaucho (cowboy). Unlike Livingstone, his writings tell of a nostalgic desire to preserve those ‘exotic’ sunny regions which to him seemed relatively untainted by ‘progress’. Cunninghame Graham’s texts contain an implied attack on the morality of the ‘civilising mission’ of colonial powers in their attitudes towards indigenous populations.

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    Location: Scottish National Portrait Gallery / First floor / The library - Display cabinet 1

Scottish National Portrait Gallery / Ground floor

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Portrait Ground floor
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    Jackie Kay, born 1961. Poet (about 2004), by Michael Snowden

    Coming home, Scottish poet and writer Jackie Kay challenges colonial stereotypes of Africa, some of which still exist today. Adopted by white Scottish parents, Kay’s birth father was a Nigerian student at Aberdeen University, her birth mother a nurse in northeast Scotland. The experience of sitting for this portrait bust, made from a life mask, gave her time to reflect on her own identity and the different ‘masks’ we all wear.

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    Location: Scottish National Portrait Gallery / Ground floor / Ground floor east stairwell

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