Joseph Mallord William Turner

A Bridge, a Study of Sky and Vessels Passing Castle on Promontory


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Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 90 x 112 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXVI 52 a

Catalogue entry

The three inscriptions on this page read as follows.
‘When the sky | Was light and the | Clouds [?] flickered in the | Ray, the Bow was | [?]diffuse and broad but | When the cloud Became [?]Dark | the Bow narrowed and became ?then the more | brilliant’ across the top of the page.
‘from the bridge | ?west’ at the upper right.
‘The four stone was laid by | Lord New Battle in 1818’ at the bottom left.
There are a number of sketches across this and the next page (folio 53; D13553) among which the most prominent is a sketch of shipping on what is presumably the Firth of Forth. There is also a slight sketch of the arch of a bridge at the bottom left of the present folio with an inscription, and on the right a thumbnail sketch of a landscape with a cliff-edge and trees. At the top of this folio is a rough and incomprehensible sketch covered by a long inscription. On the continuing page (folio 53) are four sketches of what Finberg describes as a ‘Castle on [a] Promontory’.1
The sketch of shipping continues an interest in this sketchbook in sailing vessels both moored and sailing near ports and harbours on the Firth of Forth (see Edinburgh, 1818 sketchbook Introduction). This sketch across 52 verso–53 shows five vessels, one of which, on the far left, may be moored although its sail is still up. Both banks of the Forth are shown, and on the right is a fortified structure on what Finberg describes as a ‘promontory’, but resembles a drawing of the fortified island of Inchgarvie on folio 51 (D13549).
The sketch of the bridge, while not particularly distinctive in itself, has an interesting inscription which Finberg transcribed as, ‘The four (?) stone was laid by Lord New Battle in 1818’.2 According to this reading, Turner seems to be referring to an event, which he perhaps witnessed, when a stone, presumably of the bridge depicted beneath, was ceremonially laid by ‘Lord New Battle’. Although he dropped the title in 1815, John William Robert Kerr, the Seventh Marquis of Lothian, had used the title Lord Newbattle, so it is possible that this is who Turner is referring to. There is another sketch of a bridge inscribed ‘New Battle Road’ on folio 36 of this sketchbook (Tate D13552; Turner Bequest CLXVI 36).

Thomas Ardill
January 2008

Finberg 1909, I, p.483, CLXVI 52a.
Gage 1969, p.251 note 206.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.435 no.1143.

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