Joseph Mallord William Turner Castle, Sound of Mull 1831

Artwork details

Artist
Title
Castle, Sound of Mull
From Sound of Mull (?) No. 1 Sketchbook
Turner Bequest CCLXXIV
Date 1831
Medium Graphite on paper
Dimensions Support: 91 x 153 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D26953
Turner Bequest CCLXXIV 10
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Catalogue entry

This is one of several pages of sketches (folios 6 verso, 9–10; D26947, D26951–D26953) in the Sound of Mull no.1 sketchbook that David Wallace-Hadrill and Janet Carolan have identified as Tioram Castle on Loch Moidart.1 However, the present writer disagrees with this identification as the ruin, depicted most clearly at the top right of the page, is of quite a different shape from Tioram. Instead of a gabled tower house surrounded by a five-sided curtain wall, it shows a building with a central tower and lower sections.
Most of the sketches in the current book are of the ruins of castles that stand on either shore of the Sound of Mull. Identification of these rapidly executed and rather rough sketches is made difficult by the number of possibilities, many of which have a similar appearance. Turner certainly sketched Duart Castle (folio 5 verso; D26945) Aros Castle (folio 10 verso; D26954), and Ardtornish Castle (folio 9; D26951). He also passed Mingary Castle and a number of ruined buildings such as Caisteal nan Con (opposite Aros Castle on the north shore) and Pennygown Chapel (a few miles east of Salen).
Of these, Aros Castle is perhaps the most compelling option. Sketches on the reverse of this page and the inside back cover of the sketchbook (D26954, D41020) carry inscriptions that have been read as ‘Arros’, and the shape of the ruin at the top right of the present page is comparable to the sketch on the inside back cover, and the hillside drawn at the bottom left is the right shape for the setting. However, the sketch on the inside back cover does not closely resemble the castle as it appears today, or have a striking resemblance to the near contemporary depiction of the castle by William Daniell, Arros Castle, Isle of Mull 1813–23 (aquatint, Tate T02809). The ruin on folio 10 verso does look somewhat like Aros Castle, but is not very similar to the sketches on the present page. The identification of the sketches on the present page therefore remains uncertain.

Thomas Ardill
February 2010

1
David Wallace-Hadrill and Janet Carolan, ‘Turner on the Isle of Skye 1831’, [circa 1991], Tate catalogue files, [folios 6, 30].

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