If Skating Minister isn't Scottish, why send him to Tartan Week in New York?

ONE OF Scotland's most famous, and controversial, paintings has been chosen to represent the best of Scottish art at Tartan Week in New York, The Scotsman can reveal.

The Reverend Walker Skating on Duddingston Loch is among 20 works owned by the National Galleries of Scotland that will be flown to the US for the event in April.

But the decision to select the iconic image - the origin of which is disputed - last night led to accusations that the National Galleries has shown an inconsistent attitude towards one of the country's finest artworks.

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A debate was sparked amongst art historians in March this year when a curator from the Scottish National Portrait Gallery suggested that it was painted by a Frenchman and not Sir Henry Raeburn.

The Scottish National Gallery reacted to the debate and in March 2005 it altered the label accompanying the picture to include the possibility that Raeburn did not paint it.

Although still attributed to Raeburn, the caption now reads: "Recent research has suggested that the picture was actually painted....by Henri-Pierre Danloux".

But yesterday James Holloway, director of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, said the painting had been chosen to go to New York "to show the best of Scottish art".

Duncan Thomson, a Raeburn expert and former keeper of the SNPG, said: "I think the senior figures at the Scottish National Gallery should have the courage of their convictions and just come out say they know the picture is by Raeburn.

"If the National Galleries is sending the painting to such a national event as Tartan Week, it seems they are admitting that the painting is by Raeburn.

"They jumped to conclusions much too quickly giving credence to the debate. It really matters who did the painting. It cannot be a iconic Scottish image if it is by a Frenchman."

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Mr Holloway told The Scotsman yesterday that "my gut reaction is that it is by Raeburn," and it is understood that Sir Timothy Clifford, director-general of the National Galleries of Scotland, now accepts the painting is a Raeburn.

The skating minister will appear at Christie's in New York in April 2006 as part of the annual Tartan Week, which is backed by the Scottish Executive.

Colin Bailey, chief curator of the Frick Museum in New York, welcomed the painting in the exhibition. He said: "I hope this serves to continue the debate and bring the painting to a new audience."

A spokesman for the Scottish Executive said: "The decision to pick that painting is one for the experts at the gallery and we are happy for them to make it."

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