About this artwork

Queen Victoria sat to Alexander Brodie at Balmoral in 1865 and 1866. He had been asked to produce a statue (now at Aberdeen City Chambers) and this bust. The queen wanted the results to look distinctly Scottish, so Brodie included a thistle on the neckline of her dress, alongside the English rose and Irish clover. Brodie was a perfectionist, and his anxiety over this commission is thought to have been a factor in his suicide, aged thirty-seven, in 1867. William, his elder brother, finished the bust.

Alexander and William Brodie

Alexander and William Brodie

The Brodie brothers were sons of a Banff ship-master and were brought up in Aberdeen. William became a plumber but his skill in modelling small wax and clay portraits encouraged well-wishers to send him to the Trustees' Academy (School of Design) in Edinburgh in 1847. He later continued his studies in Rome. On his return to Scotland in 1854 he sculpted some of the figures on the Scott Monument, the bronze of Greyfriars' Bobby and numerous portraits of his contemporaries. Alexander worked in his brother's Edinburgh studio and attended classes at the Academy's School of Design. He set up on his own in Aberdeen and was working on commissions for Queen Victoria when he committed suicide aged thirty-seven.