Not on display
This is a rare example of a sketch from the 1818 Scottish tour where Turner went beyond recording topography and establishing a composition, by providing all the ingredients for a finished picture: subject, composition and incident. The view is of Dalkeith, one of the subjects of the Provincial Antiquities (engraved by Henry Le Keux after John Thomson for the second number of the publication). We stand at the north-west of the town on the Old Dalkeith Road which can be seen in the foreground before snaking round to the left and turning to the right (south) to cross the North Esk River at an arched bridge. At the right, sticking out above the rooftops of the town, is Dalkeith Church – another subject illustrated for the second number of the Provincial Antiquities (this time engraved by George Hollis after Edward Blore), and sketched in detail by Turner in the Edinburgh, 1818 sketchbook (Tate D13550; Turner Bequest CLXVI 51a).
Turner’s viewpoint and composition are carefully selected to create a Claudian scene through which the eye is led from the figures in the foreground, along the road as it snakes through the landscape and towards the town which is framed on each either side by slender trees.
Relatively rare for the Scottish drawings of 1818, there are various figures in the foreground all involved in specific activities that root them in the landscape. Judging by the pile of ‘sand’ in the centre of the foreground, some of the figures are involved in repairing the road. Others at the right are working on the land, while figures drive or lead carts on the left, pulled by horses.
A similar but more detailed view of the town is drawn across folios 82 verso and 83 (D13721–D13722; CLXVII 74a–75); although Turner has got closer to the trees on the left. The town is also depicted in the Edinburgh, 1818 sketchbook (Tate D13585; Turner CLXVI 70) with a close-up of the bridge (Tate D13580–D13581; Turner Bequest CLXVI 67a–68). A sketch on the inside front cover of that sketchbook may also be of Dalkeith, although it is too faint and smudged to be certain (Tate D40936).