There are many paintings of Burns but of these only 6 can be regarded as authentic likenesses. Secondary copies, imaginative likenesses, optimistic guesses, and downright frauds have bedevilled the study of Burns iconography over the years. An authentic portrait must have been painted directly from the sitter. As such, we can accept the
Alexander Nasmyth's reputation was "the father of Scottish landscape painting" rather than his work of portraiture and so we are left wondering just how exact is the image of Burns that has come down to us in paint.
the Miers silhouette
and the Beugo engraving.
We can accept the Reid miniature
and the Peter Taylor oil - and that is all
Peter Taylor was the first man to paint the face of Burns and was by profession a house painter and a coach painter in Edinburgh
Alexander Reid was an equally unknown miniaturist working in Dumfries.
John Miers medium was the silhoette with its obvious limitations as a record of appearance and character.
The romantic red chalk head by Archibald Skirving
does not come into the "authentic" category as is proved in a letter from Skirving to his brother in which he writes "taken from a picture, for him (Burns) I never saw." However it remains aesthetically a most pleasing portrait of Burns.