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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 May 2007, 11:26 GMT 12:26 UK
Burns 'portrait' up for auction
Robert Burns portrait miniature
The miniature has been passed down through the Burns family
A tiny portrait thought to depict Scottish poet Robert Burns and holding a lock of his hair is to be auctioned.

The 5.5cm-high gold-framed miniature, has been passed down through the Burns family and is engraved with the name 'Robert Burns'.

It is expected to fetch up to 700 at Bonhams auctioneers in Knightsbridge, London.

Very few images of the poet have been found. The most famous was painted by Alexander Nasmyth in 1787.

The oval miniature, which is the same size as a small hen's egg, was passed to the current owner by Mollie Burns, who was the great granddaughter of the poet's brother Gilbert.

Illustrious brother

The sitter is depicted wearing a maroon jacket and pale-blue waistcoat, while the reverse holds a plait of hair and an engraving of the poet's name.

There has been speculation that the man depicted is actually Gilbert rather than his more illustrious brother.

But art experts said the miniture looked similar enough to the Naysmith painting, which was commissioned by the publisher William Creech and now hangs in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, to lead them to assume it is of Robert Burns.

Robert Burns portrait by Alexander Nasmyth
Art experts say the miniature looks similar to this portrait by Nasmyth

The Naysmith portrait was widely reproduced both during Burns' lifetime and after his death in 1796.

Camilla Seymour, head of portrait miniatures at Bonhams, said: "The individual features in the miniature are not dissimilar from those in the Nasmyth portrait, making the identification of the sitter plausible when the provenance is also taken into account."

A double-sided miniature of engineer Robert Stevenson and his mother Jane Lillie will also go under the hammer on Wednesday. It is expected to sell for between 800 and 1,200.

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24 Jan 07 |  Glasgow and West
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28 Nov 06 |  Highlands and Islands
Restoration for Burns Monument
29 Sep 06 |  Glasgow and West


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