About this artwork

Sandby's humorous depiction of a fair combines close observation with imaginative touches. Edinburgh's magnificent skyline, dominated by the castle, is recorded fairly accurately as viewed from Bruntsfield Links. On the left, Sanby included the Wrights House, an imposing fourteenth century baronial manor, demolished in 1800. The fair is, however, an imaginative reconstruction, probably based on the city's annual All Hallow's fair. Sandby delighted in sketching people as well as places and the scene is full of characters and lively incident. The number of red coats confirms the army's strong presence but also adds a colourful note to the composition.

Paul Sandby

Paul Sandby

Sandby is best known for his topographical and picturesque landscapes in watercolour. He probably learned drawing from his brother Thomas, and like him became a military draughtsman for the Board of Ordnance at the Tower of London. In 1747 Sandby was appointed chief draughtsman to the Military Survey in Scotland, established in the wake of the Jacobite rebellion of 1745. Based in Edinburgh, where he taught Robert Adam drawing, he travelled throughout the country producing detailed maps for the army and painting both topographical and picturesque views. In 1768 he became a founder member of the Royal Academy, London.