National Portrait Gallery. Queen Street, Edinburgh
Visitors to this shrine to Scotland's heroes and heroines will be struck by the ornately carved façade and once inside probably distracted from the art hung on its walls by the frescoes in the central space. I have selected just one of the figures that guard its red sandstone exterior. This tough, not to be messed with warrior in chainmail and with an enormous sword looks down on us from above the square to the side. But for all his weaponry, armour and resolve, there are two enemies that he finds hard to defend himself against : the weather and pigeons.
To his impressive chainmail has been added rather embarrassing steel netting to fend off those pigeons. Apart from the obvious unsightliness, the main problem is acids released from their excrement. Unfortunately the more ornate a building is, the more pigeons and other birds find places to roost. And to add insult to insult, green mould is creeping across his chainmail.
The Scottish National Portrait Gallery, a great red sandstone neo-gothic palace was designed by Sir Robert Rowand Anderson and opened to the public in 1889 as the world’s first purpose-built portrait gallery. It is an elaborate Arts and Crafts building decorated inside and out with glittering friezes, murals and extensive sculptural embellishment all with historic references. It took many years to complete the artwork after the building was opened. The sculptures are by sculpture by W Birnie Rhind, C McBride, DW & W Grant Stevenson, John Hutchison and Pittendrigh MacGillivray. By 1980 several had become unstable and were removed until eventually restored in 1991-93. The decorative painted frieze in the main hall of characters from Scottish history is by William Hole (1887-1901).