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An Insight into Art and the Merchant Company

How do you experience the artwork that defines the Merchant Company at a time that prevents people joining together? It seems the answer for this question is the same as has been the answer for most things over the last five months – Zoom.

And so it came to pass, that on Thursday 20 August, when Edinburgh would usually be in the throes of the festival and Merchants’ Hall would have been a Fringe venue 33 people logged on to hear, member Vince Mason provide the first socially distanced talk about the art which hangs on the walls of the Merchants’ Hall.

Following an introduction by James Allan, Chair of the Membership Committee, Vince took us on a visually stimulating, interesting and insightful journey through over 400 years of art owned by the Merchant Company. Art relating to our benefactors, such as George Watson, Daniel Stewart and James Gillespie; Old Masters; and honorary members. 

The talk included a video of Vince in the Hall, filmed on an iPhone, which highlighted the power of the technology at everyone’s fingertips nowadays. It was fascinating to have it pointed out that the artwork is fairly unique as it only includes portraiture. It was equally fascinating to find out that most of the research into the back stories of the paintings had been carried out by Vince in the month leading up to the talk. 

The event enabled members to have some interaction beforehand, which served to show how much people are missing the opportunities that we get to mix with one another. But the accessibility provided by the digital medium displayed here has also shown us what is possible and how events can be developed in future. 

The presentation will be available to members in the members’ area of the website in due course.