The University of the West of Scotland has donated a statuette of ‘Coila’, the muse who appears in Robert Burns’s poem ‘The Vision’, to the National Trust for Scotland.
The bronze figurine was made by Alexander Stoddart, the Queen’s sculptor in ordinary in Scotland, who has created sculptures of famous Scots including Burns, Adam Smith and James Clerk Maxwell. The donation is set to help raise some of the final £3.8 million required for the new Robert Burns Birthplace Museum in Alloway, Ayrshire – due to open in 2010.
The statuette, which stands at just over a foot high, is one of just ten which Stoddart created to commemorate the merging of four West of Scotland university campuses in Ayr, Dumfries, Hamilton and Paisley. The statuette gifted to the Trust is the only one of the collection which has been specially gilded by the sculptor.
“Burns is a poet for whom compassion rises above everything else,” said Stoddart, who is based at the Paisley Campus at the University of the West of Scotland. “That’s why he is such a great man. I have created ten statuettes of Colia and the University of the West of Scotland has gifted one to the National Trust for Scotland to help with fundraising for the new Robert Burns Birthplace Museum in Alloway which is due to open in 2010.
Stoddart added: “This could be one of the few, if not the only, free standing ‘Coila’ sculptures in the world. I would be delighted to discover if there were others in existence.”
The statuette depicts the goddess Colia who appeared as a vision to Burns as he struggled with the idea of giving up poetry, to improve his life as a farmer. In the representation ‘Colia’ appeared dressed in a Greek ‘chiton’ undergarment which was covered in projected images of the fields of Ayrshire, telling him to continue to pursue his poetic calling no matter what effects this may have on farming.
Nat Edwards, Director of the new Robert Burns Birthplace Museum said: “The sculpture is a stunning piece of work and we are very grateful for this generous gift from the University of the West of Scotland.
“Everything about the statuette, from the story of Coila and ‘The Vision’, the intricate detail and the wonderful gilding work makes it truly exquisite. We are currently deciding what to do with the piece, however, it is likely that it will be auctioned off to raise money for the new museum.”
The sculpture is designed in a contrapossto pose and depicts Colia with a holly wreath on her head and one in her right hand, which she intends to place on Burn’s brow. Stoddart gained inspiration for the creation of Colia as the name is a derived from Kyle which is the district of Ayrshire in which Robert Burns grew up. This links in with the location of the merge of the University of West of Scotland campuses which was the reason for the creation of the sculptures.
Stoddart added: “As a muse of rustic poetry, Colia’s sphere of influence extends all over the areas to which the University of the West of Scotland campuses reside.”
Professor Seamus McDaid, Principal and Vice Chancellor of the University said: "We are delighted to be able to support the National Trust for Scotland in this way. Making a strong educational and cultural contribution to the areas we serve is very important to us and this collaboration is a great way of supporting this vitally important development in Ayrshire."
Stoddart has created large-scale statues in bronze for civic locations, through medium-scaled items for buildings and commemorative purposes, to smaller works for interior and cabinet display.
The new Robert Burns Birthplace Museum in Alloway is scheduled to open in summer 2010. It is the most ambitious project to date for the National Trust for Scotland and a final fundraising push for the remaining £3.8 million required for the museum is underway.
-To make a donation to the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum visit: www.nts.org.uk/Burns/
(With thanks to the NTS)
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