• Thu. Jun 13th, 2024

The Great Hall at the National Portrait Gallery

ByRosie Dean Harding

Nov 9, 2023
Photograph of the great hall at Edinburgh's national portrait gallery

At the entrance of Edinburgh’s National Portrait Gallery, you are welcomed by one of the most iconic pieces of art showcased in the entire gallery, and it is found just by looking up at the ceiling. No one can walk into the great hall without gazing at the constellation painted above. 

Created by William Hole, the ethereal presence in the gallery is admired through the four red glowing lamps hanging down from the ceiling, in addition to the mural skirting around the sides of the hall. The likes of David Hume and Adam Smith are painted, yet what really steals the show is what lies just above their heads. 

The ceiling is filled with light blue painted figures of the zodiac, which float behind tiny flecks of gold stars. The ensemble of lighting and painting, as well as being squared into the centre of the hall through the beautifully designed wooden pillars, builds up a reflective atmosphere. You gaze at the constellations as you would with the real night sky. 

It compliments the red sandstone of the building’s outside, creating the neo-gothic feel of the gallery; it is a wholly immersive experience, contributing to Edinburgh’s National Portrait Gallery being so iconic.

It creates a whole different perspective and mindset for you to look at the pieces exhibited. Your entire experience at the National Portrait Gallery would be very different if the ceiling as you walked in was bare. Hole has managed to create a piece of art that transforms into something quite interactive. You take with it the reflective and inspiring qualities from looking up at the stars whilst experiencing the rest of the art. With the Making Space Photographs of Architecture exhibition on till March and a wide range of artwork available, the art in the hall unites everybody’s visits. Everybody begins at the same offset, regardless of the exhibition or your taste in artwork. It is reassuring that everybody who steps into this building and looks up is presented with a similar wave of awe.

Scottish National Portrait Gallery” by itmpa is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.