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Scottish National Portrait Gallery Invites Supporters to Join Its Gallery of Stars
William Hole, The ceiling of the Great Hall, Scottish National Portrait Gallery. Photo: John Mackenzie.

EDINBURGH.- The National Galleries of Scotland launched a unique fundraising initiative, in support of Portrait of the Nation, the ambitious project to refurbish and redefine the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. "Gallery of Stars" gives the public the chance to associate their name (or that of a loved one) with a very special element in this remarkable building’s decorative scheme. At the heart of the initiative is William Hole’s beautifully detailed mural mapping the night sky, painted in the late 1890s, which decorates the ceiling of the Gallery’s magnificent entrance hall. Since Friday, October 2, visitors to the National Galleries’ website have been able to navigate their way amongst the 47 constellations, comprising 2,222 individual stars, contained within Hole’s vision of the firmament, and claim for themselves their own little piece of heaven.

In the months since the Portrait Gallery closed its doors, in preparation for a £17.6 million refurbishment that will transform both the building and the way its world-famous collection is displayed, William Hole’s ceiling has been painstakingly photographed and mapped. A special graphic has been prepared for the website, which renders Hole’s scheme in detail, and makes it possible to zoom in on constellations, and to isolate specific stars, each of which has been given a unique number.

Supporters of Gallery of Stars are able to use this facility to reserve stars with a particular, personal significance, perhaps relating to their birth-sign, or to a constellation named for a favourite mythological hero or creature. Hole, a keen amateur astronomer, designed the ceiling to represent a zenith map of the stars of the northern hemisphere, projected to correspond with the space available. The stars are picked out in gold against the dark night sky, whilst mythical representations of the various constellations are painted a paler blue, helping to identify the twelve signs of the zodiac and familiar figures such as Orion, the Great Bear and Pegasus. The ceiling is populated with many figures from Greek myth, including Andromenda, her parents Cassiopeia and Cepheus, and her husband, Perseus. It also features the water-serpent Hydra, his brother Draco, and the stern and sails of Jason’s famous ship, the Argo. Among the menagerie of animal constellations are a hare, dolphin, four dogs, an eagle, fox, swan and horse’s head. More exotic beasts include Camelopardus (the Giraffe) and a unicorn.

Across the ceiling, the stars vary in magnitude just as they do in reality, and will be divided into categories of small, medium and large, corresponding to donations of £250, £500 and £750 respectively. In recognition of their generosity, supporters of Gallery of Stars will receive a limited-edition certificate that illustrates the position of their chosen star. In addition, their name and star will be recorded in the Gallery when it re-opens in 2011, as well as on the NGS website. Donors will be able to select stars for themselves, or purchase them as gifts, perhaps to celebrate the birth of a child, a birthday, wedding, or to commemorate the life of a loved one.

National Galleries | Gallery of Stars | William Hole |

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