We arrived mid-morning so what else to do but have coffee? The restaurant was already serving brunch but just coffee would set us up for the art.
Because of Covid there is currently no direct access from the restaurant and shop area to the gallery so it was good that we were fortified with a tasty beverage. It was efficient and after our coffee with a fine view towards Waverley station, which included a bride making rapid progress along an uphill path for what we had to assume was a photoshoot we set off back up the steps to the gallery entrance.
A moment’s pause was needed while the staff checked that there was sufficient space for our unreserved admission then with a nod we were in. Interesting that we haven’t dared attempt London or even Cambridge because either requires bus transfer to the centre. In Edinburgh we had no concern. Everyone takes safety very seriously so radiates confidence.
And the art? As splendid as we remembered. A stunning Botticelli Madonna and Child had something I’d never noticed before: a premonition of later events in the Child’s expression. Botticelli is not by any stretch a chocolate box painter despite the utter familiarity of the Birth of Venus and Primavera. He was a painter of insight as well as great beauty in execution. A nearby Tintoretto Deposition reinforced the effect. The attitudes of the women are closely akin to an Adoration in the Fitzwilliam, Cambridge.
The gallery has some outstanding French impressionist works including a Cezanne Mont Ste Victoire and a Gaugain (of all people) landscape that could almost have been by Cezanne: no Polynesians in this. There is also an earlier portrait of Madame Mere, Napoleon’s mother, with a bust of the emperor nearby that has a political impact to reflect the Botticelli, except here it is self absorption not world commitment.
Of course the Scottish National Gallery is justly famed for its Scottish works. Portraits are in greater number naturally at the National Portrait Gallery but outstanding works are in the National. Raeburn’s wonderfully sexy Mrs Scott Moncrieff contrasts with the Rev. Walker skating. There is also a view that could have been taken from outside the National along Princes Street during its development. Unfortunately the street itself is now like many another in our cities in a state of decline.
Despite the problems outside, however, all is splendour in the National Gallery, which is well worth visiting on any trip to Edinburgh.