About this artwork

Minister, Historiographer Royal in Scotland, and Principal of the University of Edinburgh, Robertson was famous for his historical writing, particularly his ‘History of Scotland’, published in 1759. His ‘History of Charles V’, available from 1769, was praised by two giants of Enlightenment thought, the French philosopher Voltaire and the historian Gibbon. Robertson was also one of the first to publish on the history of the Americas. Eight years after his death, his biographer, Dugald Stewart, remarked on his vigorous, intelligent appearance and commented that this portrait was “an admirable likeness; although the colours were ‘already much faded’” – a criticism often levelled at Reynolds’ painting technique.

Updated before 2020

  • artist:
  • title:
    Rev. William Robertson, 1721 - 1793. Historian. Principal of Edinburgh University
  • date created:
    1772
  • materials:
    Oil on canvas
  • measurements:
    127.50 x 102.10 cm (framed: 152.20 x 126.70 x 7.80 cm)
  • object type:
  • credit line:
    Purchased 1939
  • accession number:
    PG 1393
  • gallery:
  • depicted:
  • subject:
  • photographer:
    Antonia Reeve
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Sir Joshua Reynolds

Sir Joshua Reynolds