About this artwork

This portrait is a rare example of an early depiction of an identified Scottish musician. Patie Birnie, a fiddler from Kinghorn in Fife, was celebrated by William Aikman and the poet Allan Ramsay for his comical performing style. In Ramsay’s ‘Elegy on Patie Birnie’, published in 1721, we learn that Birnie was present at the Battle of Bothwell Bridge and that he was one of the earliest composers of Strathspeys (a type of dance in 4/4 time). The inscription at the lower left of the picture, describing Birnie as facetious, is appropriate, for although today ‘facetious’ is usually a derogatory term, in the eighteenth century it meant merry and witty. The portrait was later said to depict a face in which ‘cleverness, drollery, roguery and impudence’ is present ‘in harmonious proportions’.

  • title:
    Patie Birnie, the Fiddler of Kinghorn (d. in or before 1721)
  • accession number:
    PG 3705
  • artist:
  • depicted:
  • gallery:
  • object type:
  • subject:
  • materials:
    Oil on canvas
  • date created:
    Unknown
  • measurements:
    76.20 x 63.50 cm (framed: 95.00 x 82.40 x 6.60 cm)
  • credit line:
    Purchased 2013
  • photographer:
    Antonia Reeve

William Aikman

William Aikman