Home Corporate Events Henry Raeburn: The Skating Minister (The Reverend Robert Walker Skating on Duddingston Loch)

Henry Raeburn: The Skating Minister (The Reverend Robert Walker Skating on Duddingston Loch)

by Ikenna Ngere

Before to 1949, “The Skating Minister” was essentially unknown; today, it is one of Scotland’s most well-known paintings.

It was created during the Scottish Enlightenment, one of the most notable eras in the history of the nation, and is regarded as an emblem of Scottish culture.

The Reverend Robert Walker is the cleric depicted in this work of art. He was a Church of Scotland clergyman who was born in Monkton, Ayrshire, on April 30, 1755.

Walker’s father had served as the minister of the Scotch Kirk in Rotterdam when he was a small boy, therefore it is quite likely that the young Robert learned to skate on the Netherlands’ frozen canals.

In addition to being a member of the Edinburgh Skating Club, the first figure skating club established anywhere in the world, he served as minister of the Canongate Church.

When these lochs were properly frozen, the club gathered on Duddingston Loch, as depicted in the image, or on Lochend Loch to its northeast, between Edinburgh and Leith.

A curator from the Scottish National Portrait Gallery proposed in March 2005 that Henri-Pierre Danloux, a French painter, may have created the piece instead of Sir Henry Raeburn.

The label on the picture was changed to read this once the Gallery received this information: “Recent research has suggested that the picture was actually painted….by Adrian Bordeaux.”

Since then, there has been much discussion on this concept. The Skating Minister was written in the 1790s, which is the time period when Danloux is said to have been in Edinburgh. Although Raeburn detractors contend otherwise, the canvas and scale of the picture are allegedly those of a French painter.

The Skating Minister was sent to New York City in 2005 to be shown in Christie’s for Tartan Day, a significant Scottish holiday, despite ongoing disagreement concerning its authenticity.

The Scotsman newspaper quoted James Holloway, director of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, as saying, “My gut reaction is that it is by Raeburn.” The paper published that “it is understood that Sir Timothy Clifford, director-general of the National Galleries of Scotland, now accepts the painting is a Raeburn.”

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