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Robert Burns Lives!
Artist Yuriy Kovatchev’s  Reproduction of The famous Nasmyth Burns Portrait

Edited by Frank R. Shaw, FSA Scot, Dawsonville, GA, USA

I have always loved the James Nasmyth portraits. Until recently the Burns global community had three they could call their own even thought they belonged to museums. The three can be found at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh; Kelvingrove Art Gallery, Glasgow; and in the National Portrait Gallery, London. Now, all of a sudden, another Nasmyth has been discovered, authenticated and is for sale. Saturday night while delivering the Immortal Memory, I challenged my own Atlanta St. Andrews Society to circle up and come up with the 2 million pounds the owner wants for it! Regretfully no one seemed too excited about doing it so the anonymous owner on the other side of the pond can strike us off the list of prospective buyers.

A Reproduction of the famous Nasmyth Burns portrait by Bulgarian artist Yuriy Kovatchev

But wait, I speak this weekend at the Savannah St. Andrews Society, the second oldest St. Andrews Society in America, and will challenge those port city boys to go for the painting, and if they refuse, I may be down but not out as I speak soon to The Scottish Heritage Society of Southeast Georgia in Statesboro. Maybe, just maybe, they will loosen their purse strings and America will have another wonderful treasure of the Bard.

Another thing I like about the fourth portrait is it was once owned by a hero of mine named Sir James Shaw, who grew up in Ayrshire relatively close to Burns. Sir James  raised a good bit of money for the widow and children of Burns. He found a way for all three sons of Robert to enter the military service of the East India Company. Unfortunately, Francis died before going to India. The other two went on to distinguish themselves in the military.

This old but new portrait belonged to Shaw from around 1800 – 1810 while he was serving as the Lord Mayor of London and the portrait has currently been dubbed the Shaw-Burns portrait. Now that has a rather nice ring to it but before you jump to conclusions let me remind you my forefathers were Highlanders and Ayrshire men are as Lowlander as you can get! Regretfully we are not blood kin or I would file suit to claim the portrait! Recently good friend Clark McGinn emailed saying Sir James “Shaw was the only person to think of the two illegitimate girls named Elisabeth, so in my book he gets an extra pat on the back.” Money from the trust Shaw raised was to be set aside for the girls and he was the only one to stand up for them.

All of this is said to introduce you to Yuriy Kovatchev of Bulgaria. In September 2003 while Susan and I were browsing the Burns Cottage store for books to add to our collection, we came upon  the Bulgarian‘s reproduction of the Nasmyth portrait of the Burns. Yuriy is pretty talented and his work, while not a Nasmyth, was very enticing and his price was something less than 2,000,000 pounds but still cost “a pretty penny”. I’ve grown to love this portrait by Yuriy and it has been borrowed annually by my Atlanta St. Andrews Society on Burns Night. The last time was Saturday, January 18, 2014 at the Druid Hills Golf Club, a most beautiful venue for a Burns Night. I even saw a young married couple having their picture taken by it as Burns looked on with approval. Take a bow Yuriy Kovatchev!

By the way, the original Nasmyth is the one hanging in Edinburgh and was bequeathed by William Nicol, son of Burns, in 1872.  (FRS: 1.22.14)

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