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The Scottish National Gallery is home to the large part of Scotland's collection of fine art, one of the finest in the world.
It encompasses the full range of Western art and sculpture from the Renaissance to the present day, with particularly impressive collections of Old Masters.
The Playfair Project, completed in 2004, involved the building of the Weston Link, an underground complex linking the National Gallery of Scotland and the Royal Scottish Academy, two of 19th-century architect Henry Playfair's finest neoclassical designs. The link houses shops, restaurants, a lecture theatre and education area, and an interactive, touch-screen IT Gallery showing the collections of the National Galleries.
The core works of the National Gallery's permanent collection are its Old Masters, with works from Van Dyck, Tiepolo, and Rubens. Botticelli's Virgin Adoring the Sleeping Christ Child is a more recent acquisition, as is Antonio Canova's iconic Three Graces (shared with the V&A).
Among the collection's earlier works, Raphael's 'Bridgewater Madonna', Poussin's Seven Sacraments and Hugo Van der Goes' vivid Trinity Altarpiece should not be missed.
The gallery's collection of 19th- and 20th-century works is particularly celebrated for its Impressionists and Post-impressionists: two fine Gaugins sits alongside works by Monet, Cézanne and Seurat. The gallery also features the world's largest collection of Scottish art, including works by Wilkie, Ramsay and McTaggart, as well as Raeburn's much-loved Reverend Robert Walker Skating on Duddington Loch.
Art Funded works
One of the treasures of the National Gallery is Diego Velásquez's painting An Old Woman Cooking Eggs. One of the artist's earlier works, it belongs to the bodegón (kitchen scene) tradition and was painted from life models.
The Art Fund broke new ground when it saved Sandro Botticelli's Virgin Adoring the Sleeping Christ Child for the nation in 1999. In little over a month, the largest grant ever provided by the Art Fund at the time, £550,000, secured what is probably the most famous painting to be acquired by any museum in the UK in the second half of the 20th century.
The National Gallery sits at the edge of Edinburgh's Princes Street Gardens, and in good weather a visit to the gallery is worth supplementing with a stroll through this 19th-century park, with its monuments to reformer Thomas Guthrie, explorer David Livingstone, and of course the famous floral clock.
The gallery complex offers visitors the choice of the airy Scottish Restaurant and Café (open for both lunch and dinner), its long windows looking out over the Princes Street gardens, or for a less formal experience the Cup Cake Caffe, with the chance to eat either indoors or out in the gardens themselves. Touchscreen computers in the Weston Link allow children to browse images and information about the collection at their own pace.