Or are you looking for Search the Archives?

Please complete the form to email this item.

Oil painting - Ruins of Elgin Cathedral
  • Ruins of Elgin Cathedral
    David Roberts, born 1796 - died 1864
  • Enlarge image

Ruins of Elgin Cathedral

  • Object:

    Oil painting

  • Date:

    1853 (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    David Roberts, born 1796 - died 1864 (painter (artist))

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Oil on canvas

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by Joshua Dixon

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage


1853 (painted)


David Roberts, born 1796 - died 1864 (painter (artist))

Materials and Techniques

Oil on canvas

Marks and inscriptions

'David Roberts RA 1853'


Height: 49.7 cm estimate, Width: 74.8 cm estimate

Object history note

Bequeathed by Joshua Dixon, 1886

Descriptive line

Oil painting, 'Ruins of Elgin Cathedral', David Roberts RA, 1853

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Catalogue of British Oil Paintings 1820-1860, Ronald Parkinson, Victoria and Albert Museum, London: HMSO, 1990, p. 253
This is the full text of the catalogue entry:

"ROBERTS, David, RA (1796-1864)
Born Stockbridge, near Edinburgh, 24 October 1796, the son of a shoemaker. Apprenticed to a house painter from about 1808-15, and also worked as a theatrical scenery painter. Moved to London 1822; worked at Theatre Royal and Covent Garden. Achieved a high reputation as a painter in oils and watercolours, mainly of architectural views. Exhibited 101 works at the RA between 1826 and 1864, 32 at the BI 1825-59, and 50 at the SBA 1824-36 (elected Member 1825, President 1830). Elected ARA 1838, RA 1841. Travelled frequently and extensively; from his first visit to France 1824, he toured in Belgium, Holland, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the Near East. Published lithographic reproductions of his drawings, notably 'Picturesque Sketches in Spain' (1837) and 'The Holy Land, Syria, Idumea, Arabia, Egypt and Nubia' (1842-9). Died 25 November 1864; his studio sale was at Christie's 13-20 May 1865, and that of his son-in-law Henry Bicknell 7-9 April 1881.

LIT: J Ballantine The Life of David Roberts, RA 1866; H Guiterman (et al) David Roberts; Artist Adventurer Scottish Arts Council exhibition catalogue 1981; H Guiterman and B Llewellyn David Roberts Barbican Art Gallery exhibition catalogue 1986

Ruins of Elgin Cathedral
1010-1886 Neg 58210
Canvas, 49.7 X 74.8 cm (19 5/8 X 29½ ins)
Signed and dated 'David Roberts RA 1853' bl
Dixon Bequest 1886

On one of his tours of Scotland, the artist wrote from Elgin:

I found it better than I had anticipated, - although - it is much the Worse of the wear - and although great pains are taken in its preservation this has also its drawback - as the Ruins are very naked - but after all a painter ought to make a subject out of any thing - It is not so often the subject is at fault, as the Artist ... (letter to Henry Bicknell, 12 September 1848, National Library of Scotland).

The view is from inside the cathedral walls looking towards the east. Elgin cathedral, some 90 miles north-west of Aberdeen, was enlarged from the Kirk of the Holy Trinity after the establishment of the Bishopric of Moray in 1224, and rebuilt after a fire in 1270; by the Reformation it was considered one of the most beautiful churches in Scotland. The last public Mass was held in 1594, and the structure became increasingly ruinous thereafter, encouraged by the occupation of Cromwell's soldiers in the 1650ss and the collapse of the great central tower in 1711. The site was treated as an historical monument, with an appointed Keeper, from 1825, which explains Robert's comment that the ruins were 'very naked', presumably, that is, not overgrown with Picturesque foliation.
There are two other versions of this work, both untraced. Graves (Sales) records one (possibly the present work, despite the order of the measurements suggesting an upright format) sold in 1858 and bought by the dealer

PROV: Possibly sold Foster's 9 December 1857; ?sold by Messrs Hooper & Wass at Foster's 15 December 1858 (36, 76.2 X 51 cm (30 X 20 ins), as painted for J MacArthur of Bristol), bought Gambart £111 6s

EXH: David Roberts Barbican Art Gallery 1986 (30)

LIT: H Guiterman and B Llewellyn p100, (repr in colour p123)

Ronald Parkinson."


Canvas; Oil paint


Oil painting


Paintings; Scotland

Collection code


Large image request

Please confirm you are using these images within the following terms and conditions, by acknowledging each of the following key points:

Please let us know how you intend to use the images you will be downloading.