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Eastern Elevation of the Royal Institution, Edinburgh (now the Royal Scottish Academy Building)

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Eastern Elevation of the Royal Institution, Edinburgh (now the Royal Scottish Academy Building) 1832

Not on display

  • Scottish Art
This drawing of 1832, illustrates Playfair’s new vision for the extension of the Royal Institution building (now the Royal Scottish Academy). Playfair had designed the original building in 1822. This was small and had little decoration, a reflection of the lack of funding allocated for the original building project. By the 1830s, it was clear that the structure required enlargement. This drawing shows that Playfair proposed to extend the building by some sixty feet and to embellish the exterior with new carvings. His decorative scheme included the addition a frieze of acanthus wreaths and ornamentation of the pediments above the porticos. This new, more classical and opulent building was completed in 1835.

Glossary Open


Derived from an element in classical architecture, it is used broadly to refer to any decorative horizontal band running along a wall or piece of furniture.


In classical architecture, pediments are broad triangular or segmental gables surmounting a colonnade or portico as the major part of a façade. They are often embellished with sculpture.


A covered entrance to a large building.

Royal Institution

Founded in Edinburgh in 1819, the Royal Institution for the Encouragement of the Fine Arts in Scotland was a privately funded and largely aristocratic body, modelled on the British Institution in London. The Royal Institution (RI) initially staged exhibitions of Old Master paintings, but from 1821 to 1830 it also mounted contemporary exhibitions to stimulate patronage for modern Scottish art. The RI’s fifth exhibition occupied a new building dedicated to the arts on The Mound. This building, originally named the Royal Institution, was shared with other bodies and learned societies. It is now called the Royal Scottish Academy building. In the 1820s the RI began to form a national collection of paintings, most of which was later housed in the adjacent National Gallery of Scotland.

Royal Scottish Academy

The Royal Scottish Academy (RSA) was formed in Edinburgh in 1826 by Scottish artists who felt alienated by what they perceived as the elitism of the Royal Institution and its management of contemporary art exhibitions. In 1835, the RSA secured exhibition rights in the Royal Institution building, which had been erected on The Mound by the Board of Manufactures in 1826. The RSA and the Board frequently argued over responsibilities for advanced art education. From 1859, the RSA shared the premises of the new National Gallery of Scotland under the Board’s custody. In 1910, after transferring most of its art collections to the Gallery, the RSA gained exclusive tenancy of the former Royal Institution building, where it continues to hold large-scale annual exhibitions.

Frieze, Pediment, Portico, Royal Institution, Royal Scottish Academy


  • Acc. No. D 4251
  • Medium Pen, black ink and brown wash on paper
  • Size 51.20 x 70.50 cm
  • Credit Norman Wigzell Gift 1945