The son of an Edinburgh engraver, David Scott studied at the Trustees' Academy in the city from 1827. He was elected to the Royal Scottish Academy in 1830. From 1832 he spent fifteen months in Italy. Scott painted serious historical subjects in a visionary style and was interested in the supernatural and mysticism. His illustrative work is probably more successful than his vast and gloomy canvases. He died prematurely, a disappointed man.