John Steell

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Sir John Steell by Hill & Adamson, circa 1845.

Sir John Robert Steell RSA (1804–1891) was a Scottish sculptor. He was born in Aberdeen on 18 September 1804, but his family moved to Edinburgh around one year after his birth.[1] He is best known for a number of sculptures displayed in Edinburgh, including the statue of Sir Walter Scott at the Scott Monument. His portrait was painted by Robert Scott Lauder.


Steell was born in Aberdeen, one of the eleven children of John Steell senior, an Edinburgh carver and guilder, and Margaret Gourlay, the daughter of William Gourlay, a Dundee shipbuilder. Steell initially followed his father, training to be a carver himself. He showed artistic talent, and so studied art at the Trustees Academy in Edinburgh and then studied sculpture in Rome. On his return he opened Scotland's first foundry dedicated to sculptures, and was commissioned for numerous works, particularly statues and monuments in Edinburgh. The first work to attract major attention was "Alexander Taming Bucephalus" carved in 1832/3 (cast in bronze in 1883, and now standing in the quadrangle of Edinburgh City Chambers). Around 1838 he was appointed as Sculptor to Her Majesty the Queen, a post which was later recognised as part of the Royal Household in Scotland.[2] He exhibited at the Royal Scottish Academy and the Royal Academy, and was knighted in 1876 following the unveiling, by Queen Victoria, of his statue The Prince Consort, which stands in Charlotte Square in Edinburgh.

Sir John Steell's brother Gourlay Steell was himself a noted animal painter: he was Queen Victoria's animal painter, taking over from Sir Edwin Landseer. Many of Gourlay Steell's paintings remain in the private collection of Queen Elizabeth II.

John Steell died on 15 September 1891 and is buried in an unmarked grave in Edinburgh's Old Calton Cemetery. This grave was purchased by his father John Steell senior and many members of the Steell and Gourlay families are also interred there.

A painting of Sir John Steell by William Grant Stevenson is held in Aberdeen Art Gallery.


Steell's works include:



  1. ^ Dictionary of British Sculptors 1660-1851
  2. ^ The Laws of Scotland: Stair Memorial Encyclopaedia, Vol. 7 "The Crown", para 848
  3. ^ There is a copy at London's National Portrait Gallery