Robert Burns. John Flaxman. c.1828 (commissioned in 1824). White marble. Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh. [Click on images to enlarge them.]
Based on the famous portrait by Alexander Naismyth, the statue was completed after Flaxman's death in 1826 by the sculptor's pupil and brother-in-law, Thomas Denman (see "Robert Burns"). The poet is shown in plaid and knee-breeches, a small bunch of daisies in one hand, a roll of paper in the other, standing in the open in front of a tree-stump. A ploughshare, tam-o'shanter and thistle lie at his feet, all symbolic of his role as Scotland's ploughboy poet. A bas-relief on the pedestal depicts the Muse crowning the seated Burns. According to the inscription on the pedestal, the work was paid for by widespread subscription. The statue was formerly housed in the fine neo-classical Burns Monument (1830) designed by Thomas Hamilton, on Regent Road, Edinburgh (see "Historic Scotland").
The poet is shown in plaid and knee-breeches, with a small bunch of daisies in one hand and a roll of paper in the other, standing in the open in front of a tree-stump. At his feet lie a ploughshare, tam-o'shanter and thistle, all symbolic of his role as Scotland's ploughboy poet.
Although the facial features bear a good resemblance to the Naismyth portrait — see offsite here — the statue seems stiffly posed, almost like an upright effigy, especially in comparison with John Steell's fine, alert and much more vital seated bronze of Burns on the Thames Embankment in London. This illustrates the shift from neo-classicism as well as the particular skills of Steell, the only sculptor of his generation to be knighted (Read 50). No doubt Flaxman's statue would appear to better advantage in the monument built to house it.
Other statues of Robert Burns and Monuments to Him
- George Edwin Ewing’s bronze monument in Glasgow
- George Anderson Lawson’s bronze statuette
- William Burnie Rhind’s bronze statuette
- John Steell’s bronze monument in London
- Amelia Robertson Hill’s monument in Dumfries
- Frederick W. Pomeroy’s bronze monument in Sydney, Australia
- J. Pittendrigh MacGillivray’s bas relief
Photograph, caption, and commentary by Jacqueline Banerjee. [You may not reproduce this image without prior permission from the Scottish National Portrait Gallery]
"Historic Scotland" (Edinburgh City Council Listed Building Report). Viewed 25 February 2009.
Read, Benedict. Victorian Sculpture. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1982.
"Robert Burns Statue in White Marble" (National Burns Collection site). Viewed 25 February 2009.
Last modified 25 February 2009