Marble bust of a young woman from 1860 by Amelia Hill Robertson, £18,000 at Dreweatts.

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Her father Joseph Neil Paton was a damask designer. Her brothers Waller Hugh Paton and Joseph Noel Paton were well-known artists with a royal and aristocratic clientele and her husband was the famous pioneering Edinburgh-based photographer David Octavius Hill.

Growing up in Dunfermline, Robertson Hill’s first foray into art was conducted on a modest scale creating small miniature portraits and clay modelling with rudimentary tools. But she went on to train professionally under the Scottish sculptor William Brodie (1815-81). She moved in with her brothers at 33 George Square, Edinburgh, until her marriage and soon became an accomplished sculptor in her own right, establishing her own studio.

She went on to exhibit over 60 sculptures at the Royal Scottish Academy, the Royal Academy, Glasgow Institute, the Royal Hibernian Academy and at the International Exhibition in Dublin in 1865. Subjects were Arthurian and Shakespearean heroes, family friends and notable figures such as the historian Thomas Carlyle, the artist Sir George Harvey and the physicist Sir David Brewster.

Robertson Hill was also commissioned to produce several public statues, a rare occurrence for a woman at this time. These included that of the famous explorer David Livingstone, whose statue now stands in Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh, three statues for the city’s Scott Monument and one of Robert Burns for Dumfries town council.

Remarkable sculpture


Marble bust of a young woman from 1860 by Amelia Hill Robertson with detail of the signature to the reverse, £18,000 at Dreweatts.

She is less well known today, certainly in comparison to her husband and brothers, but a work by Robertson Hill appeared as part of the furniture, sculpture, ceramics and works of art auction at Dreweatts (26/25/20/12.5% buyer’s premium) in Newbury on March 27.

It was one of her earlier sculptures: a 23in (58cm) high 1860 classical inspired bust portrait of a young woman, signed to the reverse AMELIA R. PATON SC EDINr 1860. It was formerly from the collection of Baroness Nancy Oakes von Hoyningen-Huene, daughter of Sir Harry Oakes, 1st Baronet, a British gold mine owner, entrepreneur, investor and philanthropist.

Condition-wise the marble had mild wear, marks, knocks and scratches from handling, use and cleaning and surface dirt overall. There was some loss to the lowest edge, small scuffs and later colour marks to the hair and neck and under UV signs of remedial infill - although whether from construction or later the auction house could not say.

The sculpture was estimated at £12,000-18,000 and on the day was contested by the room, the phone and online before finally selling to an Australian online bidder at the upper estimate.

Just a few at auction

“We are thrilled with the result of this remarkable bust, which set a new auction record for this neglected Victorian female artist,” said Silas Currie, head of Dreweatts’ department of British and European sculpture and works of art.

“Only a few works by Amelia Robertson Hill have come to auction, with half of them being her portrait miniatures, so it was a privilege to be able to offer it for sale and a delight to see her works finally attaining the recognition that they deserve.”