The Skating Minister

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The Reverend Robert Walker
Skating on Duddingston Loch
The Skating Minister.jpg
Artist Henry Raeburn
Year 1790s
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 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.

Robert Walker[edit]

The minister portrayed in this painting is 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.[1] 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.

Attribution controversy[edit]

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.[2][3]

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.”[4]

In Popular Culture[edit]

Cambridge UK based musical group Clean Bandit based a character in their music video for their song "Dust Clears" on The Skating Minister painting. The video has been posted by the band on YouTube.[5] The skating minister is portrayed by skater Nick Martin and the skating scenes were filmed on Lake Vattern in Sweden.[6]

A copy of The Skating Minister can be seen displayed in the apartment of con-man Neal Caffrey in the USA television series White Collar.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hines, James R. (2011-04-22). Historical Dictionary of Figure Skating. Scarecrow Press. p. 150. ISBN 978-0-8108-7085-7. 
  2. ^ Blackley, Michael (2005-03-30). "Doubts over Skating Minister cut no ice with art experts". The Scotsman. Retrieved 2010-05-28. 
  3. ^ 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. 
  4. ^ 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. 
  5. ^ Clean Bandit - Dust Clears. YouTube
  6. ^ "Clean Bandit's 'Skating Minister' reveals Island connection". Retrieved 2016-01-13. 

Further reading[edit]

  • 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, Walker, and the setting of the painting.

External links[edit]