John Slezer: A Survey of Scotland

  • 1st December 2011 − 31st December 2012 | Scottish National Portrait Gallery

John Abraham Slezer (about 1650 – 1717) first came to Scotland in 1669, probably from Germany, and settled here in 1671. He was employed in the Scottish army and his military work involved surveying the nation’s major defences and fortifications. While travelling around Scotland, Slezer produced images of many places he visited, publishing them in 1693 as a book, called Theatrum Scotiae.

Theatrum Scotiae is a revealing portrait of Scotland over three hundred years ago. Painted views of Scotland were exceptionally rare at this time, and the examples shown here by Keirincx and Vosterman are three of the very few known.

Slezer’s printed images presented a comprehensive view of Scotland for the first time. These views, or ‘prospects’ as he called them, show towns and cities, country houses, palaces and castles, universities and churches.  Slezer’s drawings were created using an optical instrument called a camera obscura which produced accurate depictions. These were then made into engravings by assistants.  We see recently-built grand residences, as well as great abbeys and cathedrals ruined and vandalised during the Reformation, and land being used for a variety of purposes.

Seton Palace and the Forth Estuary Alexander Keirincx


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