About this artwork

Taylor painted this half-length portrait of the famous Scottish poet following their meeting at a dinner party in December 1786. Robert Burns agreed to sit for the portrait the next morning and after three sittings it was complete. The differences between the poet’s appearance here and Alexander Nasmyth’s more famous portrait are obvious. Yet several of Burns’s contemporaries noted the likeness captured by Taylor, including Sir Walter Scott, “I would not hesitate to recognise this portrait as a striking resemblance of the Poet”. The painting was used as a basis for an engraving by John Horsburgh and a statue by John Greenshields. A larger version of the portrait that came to light in 1893 is also attributed to Taylor.

Peter Taylor

Peter Taylor

Born in Edinburgh, Peter Taylor was principally an interior decorator and carriage painter. He did, however, paint several portraits during his career. An example of this is a small, but important, portrait of the poet Robert Burns and almost certainly a larger version which did not come to light until 1893. Taylor was interested in industrial developments and in 1788 he introduced the manufacture of painted wax cloth, a form of floor covering. Although this was an extremely successful product after his death, he was only awarded £100 “towards expenses” by the Board of Manufactures. Taylor suffered from tuberculosis and retired to the south of France.