Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

St Andrew statue restored after missing hand mystery

St Andrew Image copyright St Andrews University
Image caption During the restoration process the university's museums team established the statue was the work of revered sculptor Sir John Steell

A statue of Scotland's patron saint has been fully restored after his left hand mysteriously disappeared.

The stone sculpture of St Andrew, a copy of the one in St Peter's Basilica in Rome, was gifted to St Andrews University in the 1960s.

But after a failed appeal to find its missing hand the statue underwent a conservation and repair programme.

Experts then discovered it was the work of revered sculptor Sir John Steell who was honoured by Queen Victoria.

Dr Katie Stevenson, the university's vice-principal, responsible for collections, music and digital content, said: "The restoration and conservation of such a historically-important sculpture will allow generations to enjoy it for years to come.

"We were delighted that during the restoration our team were able to confirm the added discovery that the statue of St Andrew is an original piece by Sir John Steell, which makes it even more significant not only to the university but to our understanding of the development of Scottish art in the nineteenth century."

Image copyright St Andrews University
Image caption The statue was moved from Edinburgh to St Andrews in the 1960s

Dr Stevenson said the statue was previously in the foyer of the North British & Mercantile Insurance Company building in Edinburgh and as staff came in to work they touched the fingers to bring them luck.

For almost four decades it was in the Botanic Garden car park in St Andrews but its new home is in the gardens of the Wardlaw Museum on The Scores.

Until recently it was credited to Musselburgh-born sculptor Alexander Handyside Ritchie.

But during the restoration the team identified it was the creation of Steell, who worked with his father from a studio in Edinburgh.

His first major piece came in 1827 when the North British Insurance Company commissioned a huge timber statue of St Andrew to be placed outside its office in Edinburgh's New Town.

It was based on the statue of St Andrew in Rome by Francois Duquesnoy.

Image copyright St Andrews University
Image caption The sculpture's new home is outside the Wardlaw Museum, which is undergoing a refurbishment

Two years later Steell travelled to to the Italian capital to study sculpture before creating his stone tribute to the saint.

In 1838 his reputation led to him being appointed Sculptor in Ordinary by Queen Victoria.

Steell's work was sent as far afield as Jamaica and India and his commissions include the statue of Robert Burns in Central Park, New York.

Dr Katie Eagleton, St Andrews university museums director, said: "Steell is credited with introducing large-scale marble carving into Scotland.

"We are pleased to be able to restore this wonderful statue and we hope that his new home will allow people to enjoy him as never before."

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