Portraits & Busts
The College has an impressive and growing collection of portraits, paintings and busts, the earliest, James Borthwick, dating from around 1660. A regular addition to the collection is that of a portrait of the College President, commissioned as each demits office, normally after holding the presidency for three years. The most recent addition in this category is that of John A R Smith, President of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh from 2003 to 2006. This fine portrait, and that of the previous President, Professor Sir John Temple, were painted by Keith Breeden, who was elected to the Royal Society of Portrait Painters in 2000.
Portrait and Bust Examples
Portrait of James Borthwick
This portrait is of James Borthwick of Stow (1615-1645) FRCSEd 1645, a Fellow and the first person in the history of the College to be nominated specifically as a teacher of anatomy - “desecting of anatomie for the farder [further] instruction of prentisses [apprentices]and servands”, as the original College minutes describe his task.
Portrait of Archibald Pitcairne
The core of this collection is the remarkable series of late 17th, early 18th century paintings by Medina and Aikman. Archibald Pitcairne, John Monro and James Douglas, 4th Duke of Hamilton are amongst the notable individuals portrayed.This one by Medina is of Archibald Pitcairne (1652-1713). He was the youngest of the founding Fellows of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh in 1681. Four years later in 1685 he was appointed Professor of Medicine in Edinburgh then later in Leyden, where the famous Boerhaave was one of his pupils. He became a Fellow here in 1701.
Portrait of Robert Liston
The great early Victorian surgeons are also represented with many fine portraits of such eminent figures as Robert Liston (1794-1847). This is one of two portraits of Liston the College is fortunate to possess. Liston was a famous surgeon, a Fellow of this College, who was known for his dexterity and speed, which, in the pre-anaesthesia days was greatly appreciated by patients. In December 1846 he performed the first major operation under general anaesthesia (ether at the time) in England.
Bust of Sir Charles Bell
One of the most distinguished figures in this distinguished company, Sir Charles Bell (1774-1799) FRCSEd 1799, recorded in the College by this fine marble bust, was also an accomplished artist himself. Offering his services to the treatment of the wounded from the Battle of Corunna in 1809 he recorded some of the injuries in a series of oil paintings, displayed in the Pathological Museum of the College.
Norman Dott by Sir William Hutchison
Among the more recent pictures is the outstanding portrait by Sir William Hutchison, of Norman Dott (1897-1973) FRCSEd 1923, a famous Edinburgh neurosurgeon and a former Vice-President of this College. He was the first to demonstrate an aneurysm in the circle of Willis by angiography and treat it successfully. Dott was awarded the Freedom of the City of Edinburgh in 1962. Some of the surgical instruments he devise can be seen in the College’s museums
Portraits, Paintings and Busts in the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh
Masson, A.H.B. Portraits, Paintings and Busts in the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh. Edinburgh:RCSEd, 1995. This book is lavishly illustrated and bound. Buy online.