William Brassey Hole

Cartoon for processional frieze (Septimius Severus to Stone Age), Scottish National Portrait Gallery (About 1898)

About this artwork

This drawing – or cartoon – is a study for part of the frieze that can be found in the main hall of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. It was designed by William Hole, who meticulously sketched and designed every part of the internal decorative scheme before painting it. This section features on the left side of the north wall. It is the beginning of the frieze and runs chronologically from right to left. On the far right are four figures that represent the Stone Age, followed by three Bronze Age men. The others are important figures from the Roman times and include Hadrian, the Roman Emperor who built Hadrian’s Wall – for centuries the northern border of the Roman Empire in Britain – and Antoninus Pius, who commissioned the Antonine wall.

William Brassey Hole

William Brassey Hole

Edinburgh-based artist William Hole specialised in history painting and etching. Around 1895 he volunteered to decorate the chancel of St James’ Church on Inverleith Row with large-scale murals. In 1897 the still unfinished work came to the attention of John Ritchie Findlay, owner of ‘The Scotsman’ newspaper. Findlay commissioned Hole to carry out the internal decorative scheme of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, which had recently been built with money donated by Findlay. During several years, Hole designed and painted a processional frieze of Scottish worthies and completed a series of large murals that illustrate events in Scottish history. He later carried out other important commissions, including six paintings for the City Chambers in Edinburgh.