About this artwork

In 1771 Runciman returned to Scotland after a prolonged trip to Italy. Before his trip he had made a promise to Sir James Clerk of Penicuik, 3rd Baronet, that he would decorate the great hall and staircases of Clerk’s newly built manor, Penicuik House. Clerk had funded Runciman’s trip to Italy, and conversed with him about his intentions for the decorations while abroad. He had originally intended to paint a cycle based on scenes from classical mythology, but at some point he changed his mind in favour of subjects from the poems of Ossian, a fictitious third-century Celtic bard. The decorations at Penicuik (sadly destroyed by fire in 1899) were Runciman’s masterpieces. This drawing shows his unfinished designs for the central oval of the ceiling.

Updated before 2020

  • artist:
  • title:
    The Blind Ossian Singing and Accompanying himself on the Harp
  • date created:
    About 1772
  • materials:
    Pen and brown ink wash (touched up with oil colour) on paper
  • measurements:
    Oval: 46.60 x 59.90 cm
  • object type:
  • credit line:
    David Laing Bequest to the Royal Scottish Academy transferred 1910
  • accession number:
    D 299
  • gallery:
    View by Appointment
  • subject:
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Alexander Runciman

Alexander Runciman