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Turner returns here to a similar composition as his large watercolour of Edinburgh from Calton Hill, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1804 (Tate D03639; Turner Bequest LX H). Again the focus is Edinburgh Castle with the arches of North Bridge in front, however this view is taken from further up the hill and most of the composition is dominated by an upward sloping path in the foreground. The castle and bridge are mere silhouettes as if shrouded in mist as in the 1804 painting, but Turner has paid more attention to the houses below the hill to the left. A dark silhouette of a figure is seen walking away into the picture.
For the Provincial Antiquities, Turner was commissioned to make another view of Edinburgh from Calton Hill, circa 1818 (watercolour, Yale Center for British Art)1, so he made several sketches of the view and of the hill itself. A double page panoramic drawing in the Scotch Antiquities sketchbook (Tate D13651, D13652; Turner Bequest CLXVII 39a–40), taken from further up the hill where more of the city is visible, formed the basis for his final design. A more finished drawing on folio 61 verso of this sketchbook (D13430; CLXV 59a) shows a similar view and is perhaps an intermediate composition between this sketch and the Scotch Antiquities one, showing the castle and bridge from a slightly higher vantage point and including more of the city.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.426 no.1061.