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HomeContentsVisual indexes > Paul Sandby (1730 or 1731–1809)

Paul Sandby (1730 or 1731–1809) 
Roslin Castle, Midlothian 
1780 (ca) 
Gouache on medium laid paper, mounted on board 
46 x 38.4 cm (18 1/8 x 15 1/8 ins) 
Yale Center for British Art 
Accession number: YCBA/lido-TMS-13045 
Curatorial Comment (Accessed: 10 May 2019)
Located about eight miles southwest of Edinburgh, Roslin Castle was built in the fourteenth century; it was damaged to a great extent after being besieged in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Its ruins, on a cliff overlooking the North Esk River, were celebrated by poets and immortalized by artists. The “beautifully wild and awfully sublime” vista also attracted numerous visitors (White, 1977, no. 40). Despite its title, Sandby’s composition is more likely a reflection of his contemporaries’ longing for such views rather than an attempt to render the castle accurately. A new cultural practice seems to be unfolding here: the taste for picturesque touring, a broadened social experience inherited from the once-dominating and exclusive practice of the Italian Grand Tour. This cultural phenomenon is personified by the figures appearing on the right in Sandby’s work. A drawing entitled “Lady Frances Scott and Lady Elliott”—dated 1780—in the Paul Mellon Collection (YCBA) reveals the identity of two of these women. Lady Scott, an amateur artist of some repute (she was known to Horace Walpole), can be seen sketching a view with the help of a camera obscura. The design of this optical device was of disarming simplicity: after entering through a small opening in front of the box, light would hit a mirror placed at an angle, projecting the image onto a glass surface on which was laid a sheet, allowing its user to draw the outlines. Known since antiquity and used by many artists (Sandby included), the camera obscura was extremely popular with amateur artists and travelers anxious to keep visual journals of their quests for local color in the countryside.
-- Stephane Roy, 2007-01 

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