Walter Scott


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The Bath Miniature: The First Portrait of Scott

Little information is available on the first known portrait of Scott, an unsigned head and shoulder length miniature painted during a childhood stay in Bath. Painted in watercolour on ivory and measuring 2 x 1½ inches, it shows a fair-haired young Scott in profile to the left, wearing a scarlet dress with a white collar. According to Lockhart, Scott was six years old at the time of sitting, but he may have overestimated his age. It is difficult to establish precise dates for Scott's visit to Bath, where he was sent in the hope that the spa waters might help cure his lameness (see Sandyknowe and Early Childhood). Scott set off for England in the summer of 1775, visited London en route, and subsequently spent around a year in Bath. It seems reasonable to assign the portrait to summer 1776, when Scott would have been five years old or nearly so.

Lockhart erroneously believed that the copy of the miniature displayed at Abbotsford was the original, and it was used as the source for John Horsburgh's engraving for the second Edition of Lockhart's Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott, Bart. (1839). The original, however, was given by Scott's mother to Mrs. Captain Watson, wife of Andrew Watson, and was subsequently acquired by David Laing. Laing bequeathed it to the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland who in turn gifted it to the current owners City of Edinburgh Museums and Galleries.

Corson P.6098

The 'Bath Miniature' engraved by John Horsburgh, for the 2nd edition of Lockhart's Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott, Bart. (1839)

To date, no altogether satisfactory attribution for the miniature has been proposed, but Francis Russell, in his definitive study of Portraits of Sir Walter Scott (see Bibliography), is inclined to accept Sir John Pope-Hennessy's suggestion that the artist may be 'Daniels of Bath'. A group of miniatures attributed to 'Daniels of Bath' may be the work of Abraham Daniel (d. 1806) or his brother Joseph (ca. 1760-1803), or distributed between the two. Both artists appear to have worked in or around Bath in the last three decades of the eighteenth century. As they appear to have set up in opposition and both claimed to be 'Mr Daniel', there is considerable difficulty in assigning miniatures to one or the other. As only Abraham left a signed work (a portrait of Rabbi Moses Ephraim of Plymouth), art historians have tended to attribute work to him alone. Daphne Foskett provides a description of the characteristic style of 'Daniels of Bath' which matches well with that of the 'Bath Miniature':

Their style of painting is easily recognisable once it has been studied, the hair is painted softly, in large masses, without much detail, the eyes are large and usually wide open, the eyelids strongly delineated, and the features shaded so as to emphasize the modelling of the cheeks and nose; the mouth is clearly defined, and the general effect of the work is that it has a slightly glossy appearance, due to the use of gum with the pigments.

Lockhart judged the Bath portrait 'a very good miniature'. The outline of the profile was 'wonderfully like what it was to the last; the expression of the eyes and mouth very striking -- grave and pensive' (IX, 259).

Click here for further information on the engraver John Horsburgh.


  • Foskett, Daphne. A Dictionary of British Miniature Painters (London: Faber & Faber, 1972)
  • Johnson, Edgar. Sir Walter Scott: The Great Unknown (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1970)
  • Lockhart, John Gibson. Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott, Bart., 2nd edn (Edinburgh: R. Cadell, 1839)
  • Russell, Francis. Portraits of Sir Walter Scott: A Study of Romantic Portraiture (London: The Author, 1987)

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Last updated: 27-Feb-2006
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