Nasmyth painted this long after his friend's death, basing the image on his well-known head and shoulders portrait of Burns. In this idealised scene he has placed the poet in front of the Auld Brig o' Doon at Alloway in Ayrshire, close to where Burns grew up. In Burns's poem 'Tam o' Shanter' of 1790, Tam's brave grey mare Maggie must reach this bridge and cross the running stream to evade the witches and warlocks pursuing her drunken master. It is said that Nasmyth conceived of this particular pose during a walk out from Edinburgh to Roslin early one morning, when he sketched Burns while the latter was admiring the beauty of the scene. Despite its modest size, this painting became the inspiration for many statues of the poet around the world.