The architectural innovations of Mr James Smith of Whitehill (c.1645-1731) within the European context

Gonzalez-Longo, Cristina; Lowrey, John and Humm, Louisa and Mackechnie, Aonghus, eds. (2020) The architectural innovations of Mr James Smith of Whitehill (c.1645-1731) within the European context. In: The Architecture of Scotland 1660-1750. Edinburgh University Press, GBR. ISBN 9781474455268

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The architecture of James Smith has been largely interpreted within the domain of Palladianism.1 This chapter counters that view by arguing that, rather than Vicenza, it was his direct experience of the architectural culture in Baroque Rome and the work of Juan Caramuel Lobkowitz that is significant in Smith’s architecture. His transformations of Drumlanrig Castle and Queensberry House are key to the understanding of these critical influences.2JohnSummerson, who was rather disparaging of Smith’s ‘Palladian’ work,3 considered Drumlanrig Castle, Smith’s major project of the late 1670s, ‘the most remarkable building emerging from the tradition initiated by William Wallace’ but he attributed the building to Robert Mylne,4 Master Mason to the Crown and working at the time on the transformation of Holyrood house Palace. Summerson summarised Wallace’s style as inflected by ‘Netherlandish’ and with some French influences.5His main sourcewas probably the fact that Drumlanrig featured in Colen Campbell’s Vitruvius Britannicus,6 although in a simplified version that avoids showing the Baroque decoration. It was nevertheless a strange fit in a publication about Classical buildings, especially considering Campbell’s dislike of Baroque and Gothic architecture, and it can only be attributed to a real personal admiration for Smith. James Smith was the first from the Scottish architectural profession to enjoy a direct and extended knowledge of contemporary European architecture, living in Rome between 1671 and 1675. However, he did not go to Rome to train as architect, but rather to study at the Scots College to become a Roman Catholic priest.7He was a mature student (around 25 years old), healthy, of good character, articulate, honest and with good reputation, as stipulated in the College rules.


Gonzalez-Longo, Cristina ORCID logoORCID:; Lowrey, John, Humm, Louisa and Mackechnie, Aonghus