About this artwork

Patrick Byrne was a famous blind musician from Ireland, who visited Edinburgh in the 1840s. He was educated at an academy in Belfast where blind people were taught to play the harp. One night he performed in a ‘tableau vivant’ at one of the costumed Waverley Balls, dressed as the elderly musician of Walter Scott’s epic poem ‘The Lay of the Last Minstrel’. Hill later wrote of this calotype: ‘The Harper, whose costume is made of a blanket and plaid shows how simply one might get up pictures of the old world.’ Byrne's instrument is one of the large wire-strung harps made by Dublin harp maker John Egan for the Irish Harp Society.

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David Octavius Hill

Robert Adamson

David Octavius Hill

A painter and a lithographer by training, David Octavius Hill is best remembered for the beauty of the calotypes he and Robert Adamson produced together. Hill was a sociable and kind-hearted man who did much to support the arts in Scotland and between 1830 and 1836 he was the unpaid Secretary of the newly established Royal Scottish Academy. After Adamson's death, Hill's attempt to start a new partnership with the photographer Alexander MacGlashan around 1860 failed. Hill is to this day revered as one of the first in the trade who transformed photography into an art form.

Robert Adamson