John Le Conte (1816-1887) was born in Edinburgh. In 1830, aged fourteen, he was apprenticed to an eminent engraver, Robert Scott (1771-1841) who had a workshop in Parliament Stair where he employed many assistants. When Le Conte became his apprentice in 1830, Scott had moved to grander premises in Edinburgh’s New Town at 65 Princes Street. Under Scott’s guidance Le Conte became a skilled water colourist and engraver and in 1861 was able to set up his own business in at 32 Frederick Street. Le Conte’s chief interests were painting views of old Edinburgh and portraiture. He also worked as a professional photographer for a brief period from 1860-63.
In 1979 an exhibition of Le Conte’s work was shown in the City Art Gallery where he was acknowledged as one of the most successful engravers in Scotland of his day. Among his works were portraits of Mary Queen of Scots and of his master Robert Scott. His paintings include Edinburgh Castle from the Grassmarket, several views of the City from the top of the Scott Monument and the Martyr’s Memorial in Greyfriar’s Churchyard. The task of engraving the painting of Parliament Square would have appealed to him greatly.
Le Conte’s engravings of Robert Scott and May Queen of Scots (National Gallery of Scotland)