National Galleries Scotland is one of my most favorite galleries. Perhaps it is because I feel that I have come home, welcomed by the artistic energy that pervades the spacious rooms. I feel a profound sense of history and destiny as I take in the paintings and sculptures. I am connecting with the artists and subjects, without the barriers of time and location.
The Campbell Sisters dancing a waltz by Lorenzo Bartolini are in continual motion as the portraits and sculptures look on with benevolent interest. Do you hear the music? It is there, unmistakable if you listen to the strains coming through the centuries. I am transported back to the early 1800’s to the time of Emma and Julia Campbell, the youngest daughters of Lady Charlotte Campbell, who, in turn, was the youngest daughter of the 5th Duke of Argyll.
The Campbell Sisters dancing a waltz was originally installed at Inveraray Castle, the seat of the Dukes of Argyll, chiefs of the Clan Campbell, since the 18th century. Eventually the sculpture made its way to the Scottish National Galleries on loan. The “Sisters” were held safe in the gallery for 20 years.
And then the unimaginable occurred! The sculpture was placed up for auction by the owner and was soon sold and on its way to an overseas museum. I can only imagine the concern when the news came that the Campbell Sisters would be dancing far away from Scotland’s shores.
All was not lost! A ruling came through that the export should be delayed for six months to allow UK museums to match the auction price. If they could, the Campbell Sisters would remain safe at home.
The campaign to raise funds was successful. The Campbell Sisters dancing the waltz was purchased jointly by the National Galleries of Scotland and the Victoria and Albert Museum, with the aid of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the Art Fund (with a contribution from the Wolfson Foundation), and a donation in memory of A. V. B. Norman, 2015
Join in a waltz with the Campbell Sisters.