The Skating Minister
|Type||oil on canvas|
|Dimensions||76 cm × 64 cm (30 in × 25 in)|
|Location||National Gallery of Scotland|
The Reverend Robert Walker Skating on Duddingston Loch, better known by its shorter title The Skating Minister, is an oil painting allegedly by Sir Henry Raeburn in the National Gallery of Scotland in Edinburgh. It was practically unknown until about 1949, but has since become one of Scotland's best-known paintings. It is considered an icon of Scottish culture, painted during one of the most remarkable periods in the country's history, the Scottish Enlightenment.
The Reverend Robert Walker
The clergyman portrayed in this painting is the Reverend Robert Walker. He was a Church of Scotland minister who was born on 30 April 1755 in Monkton, Ayrshire. When Walker was a child, his father had been minister of the Scots Kirk in Rotterdam, so the young Robert almost certainly learnt to skate on the frozen canals of the Netherlands. He was licensed by the Presbytery of Edinburgh in 1770 at the age of fifteen. He married Jean Fraser in 1778 and had five children. He became a member of the Royal Company of Archers in 1779 and their chaplain in 1798.
He was minister of the Canongate Kirk as well as being a member of the Edinburgh Skating Club, the first figure skating club formed anywhere in the world. The club met on Duddingston Loch as shown in the painting, or on Lochend loch to its northeast between Edinburgh and Leith, when these lochs were suitably frozen.
In March 2005, a curator from the Scottish National Portrait Gallery suggested that the painting was by French artist Henri-Pierre Danloux rather than by Henry Raeburn. Once this information had been brought to the attention of the Gallery, the label on the painting was altered to read “Recent research has suggested that the picture was actually painted [...] by Henri-Pierre Danloux.” Since this time, many people have debated this idea. It has been argued that Danloux was in Edinburgh during the 1790s, which happens to be the time period when The Skating Minister was created. Supposedly the canvas and scale of the painting appears to be that of a French painter, although Raeburn critics argue otherwise.
Despite continuing controversy about its attribution, The Skating Minister was sent to New York City in 2005 to be exhibited in Christie's for Tartan Day, an important Scottish celebration. James Holloway, director of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, told The Scotsman newspaper that “my gut reaction is that it is by Raeburn.” The newspaper reported that “it is understood that Sir Timothy Clifford, director-general of the National Galleries of Scotland, now accepts the painting is a Raeburn.”
- Hines, James R. (2011-04-22). Historical Dictionary of Figure Skating. Scarecrow Press. p. 150. ISBN 978-0-8108-7085-7.
- Blackley, Michael (2005-03-30). "Doubts over Skating Minister cut no ice with art experts". The Scotsman. Retrieved 2010-05-28.
- Taylor, Alan (2005-08-07). "The Skating Minister: enduring masterpiece by the great Scottish artist Henry Raeburn, or just a rather nice painting by an obscure Frenchman?". The Herald, Scotland. Retrieved 2010-05-28.
- Roberts, Laura (2005-12-16). "If Skating Minister isn't Scottish, why send him to Tartan Week in New York?". Scotsman. Retrieved 2010-05-28.
- Thomson, Duncan; Gladstone-Millar, Lynne (2004). The Skating Minister: The Story Behind the Painting. National Galleries of Scotland. ISBN 9781901663853. Tells the story behind this painting. It gives details about the artist, the Reverend, and the setting of the painting.