ROBERT FORREST OF CARLUKE (1789-1852)
KING ROBERT THE BRUCE AND THE MONK OF BASTON, CIRCA 1830
carved sandstone raised on a plinth
IMPORTANT NOTICE FOR THIS LOT: This sculpture will be sold in situ and is not available to view at Lyon & Turnbull. Extensive photographs and a condition report are available. Viewing can be arranged by appointment - please contact the department. The lot is currently situated approximately one hour's drive south from either Edinburgh or Glasgow. All removal costs will be the responsibility of the purchaser.
Dimensions: 300 x 235 x 110cm approximately Estimate £ 8,000-12,000 + fees Provenance: Robert Forrest (1789-1852)
The City of Edinburgh, from 1852
With Lyon & Turnbull, 1876
Sir John Watson 1st Baronet of Earnock (1819-98) and by descent at Earnock and Neilsland Estates, Hamilton, until 1926
L.S. Smellie & Sons Ltd., Hamilton, auctioneers, 23rd January 1926
Purchased by Murdoch Mackenzie Esq. and thence by descent
Note: Robert of Baston was a Carmelite monk who was well known for his verses and songs. It is said that, as a result of this reputation, he was taken by the Kings Edward I and Edward II on their military campaigns to Scotland. According to Scottish chroniclers, he was captured by Robert the Bruce and was forced, in return for his freedom, to write and sing verses about the defeat of his own countrymen. This is the event that is depicted in Forrest's sculpture. Baston is shown kneeling at the feet of Robert the Bruce and his horse, handing him some papers with a look of despair on his face.
Robert Forrest (1789-1852) was born in Carluke, Lanarkshire, in 1789, where he became a stonemason. His early works were of small animals, but he soon caught the attention of the local gentry from whom he received encouragement and patronage. His first commission was of a Highland Chieftain in 1817, but his first major piece was a statue of William Wallace, which resides in a niche in the Tolbooth in Lanark. In 1822 he sculpted his most recognised work, which is the statue of Lord Melville that tops the column in St Andrew Square, Edinburgh.
Forrest's main sources of inspiration came from historical and literary figures, and he was heavily influenced by Romanticism and the poetry of Robert Burns (1759-1796) and Allan Ramsay (1686-1758). As a result, his works take on a distinctly Romantic and sentimental attitude and often depict historical figures with particular significance to Scotland, such as Mary, Queen of Scots and Walter Scott. In addition, his works tend to have a narrative element, encompassing or making reference to a historical event, myth or work of literature.
In 1829, the subscriptions to build the Parthenon monument on Calton Hill were running out and the Royal Association of Subscribers to the National Monument were looking for more funding. In 1831, however, Michael Linning (1775-1838), who had been secretary to the Melville Monument Subscribers Committee and was also the secretary to the Royal Association of Subscribers to the National Monument, announced that he had secured access to a free supply of stone. He proposed that Robert Forrest create a collection of equestrian statues to be exhibited on Calton Hill to maintain and promote interest in the project. These became his 'Duke of Wellington', 'Duke of Marlborough', 'Mary, Queen of Scots with Lord Herries', and 'Robert the Bruce and the Monk of Baston'. While the monument was never finished, the statues remained on Calton Hill for the next eighteen years.
Forrest continued to expand the exhibition, sculpting 'Charles XII of Sweden and a Cossack Prince', 'Tam O'Shanter and Souter Johnny' and 'King James V and the Gypsy' among others. However, in 1834 Linning declared bankruptcy and died suddenly in the midst of having his property seized. This resulted in the Trustees demanding £800 from the Monument Association, which they could not pay. To meet this, the Association started charging Forrest rent for the display of his sculptures, which gradually increased until 1849, when he could no longer pay. Forrest had his sculptures removed, some of which went to Cheshire, whilst others, on Forrest's death in 1852, were left to Edinburgh City Council.
When eventually sold through Lyon and Turnbull in 1876, the principal buyer at the auction was David Mitchell, former head gardener to the Duke of Hamilton. Mitchell bought on behalf of the coalmine owner, Sir John Watson (1819-1898), for the Neilsland and Earnock Estates in Lanarkshire. The purchases included 'Charles XII of Sweden and a Cossack Prince' and 'Robert the Bruce and the Monk of Baston'. In 1873 Watson developed his policies, under the direction of Mitchell. Tor Lake at Torhead was constructed and a varied selection of trees planted to form an arboretum on both sides of the glen. A rockery was created and a replica Swiss cottage built. Statues of a lion and a unicorn stood at the top of steps in front of the main house and steps lead down through grass terraces to a red stone fountain with water coming from the mouth of a salmon held in the jaws of an otter. Around the house and in various positions in the glen the statues carved by Robert Forrest were arranged. The house and estates remained in the Watson family until 1958, however when Earnock House was demolished in 1926 the statues were sold through a Hamilton-based auctioneer and purchased by Murdoch Mackenzie for his estate in the Scottish Borders.
Sold for £8,125
(buyer's premium included)