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

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

Not on display

  • Scottish Art
This drawing is one of Playfair’s presentation proposals for the new façade of the Royal Institution. He designed the original building in 1822, but by 1832 it was in need of extension. Playfair’s plans for the expansion included additional ornamentation, such as the statue above the pediment of Pallas Athena, Greek goddess of wisdom. She was a suitable embellishment for a learned institution, but this choice also shows how Playfair was a true devotee of the Greek Revival style. Athena was the goddess for whom the Parthenon temple in Athens was built: the touchstone of perfection for all architects. Here, she was to crown a temple to the arts. This design for the statue was never realised, and in 1844 a sculpture of Queen Victoria dressed as Britannia was installed.

Glossary Open


The external face of a building, usually referring to the most important, such as that facing the street or containing the main entrance.

Greek Revival

The revival of ancient Greek models in architecture in the 18th and 19th centuries prompted by archaeological discoveries.


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.

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.

Façade, Greek Revival, Pediment, Royal Institution, Royal Scottish Academy


  • Acc. No. D 4250
  • Medium Pen, black ink and brown wash on paper
  • Size 51.30 x 66.30 cm
  • Credit Norman Wigzell Gift 1945