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A strip of nineteen tiny boxed and numbered composition studies across this page and the inside back cover of the inverted sketchbook (D40980) have been identified by Gerald Finley as representing a series of events from George IV’s visit to Edinburgh in August 1822. The series is laid out in chronological order (although number ‘9’ is mistakenly out of sequence) from right to left in the top row and left to right in the second row. Beneath these two rows is a nineteenth unnumbered composition that Turner seems to have accidentally omitted from the sequence and later added at the end.
Six of the compositions became the basis for later works of art, including four oil paintings on mahogany (three of which are unfinished). This has led Gerald Finley to propose that the sequence of compositions represents a plan for a series of oil paintings (and perhaps engravings after them) making up a ‘Royal Progress’ (see George IV’s Visit to Edinburgh 1822 Tour Introduction).1 The series was never fully realised and the plan seems not to have been developed beyond these first-draft studies. However, three more of the compositions became the basis for subsequent works with the two vignette frontispieces of the 1826 edition of the Provincial Antiquities, and an illustration to one of Scott’s novels.
The studies are described below, largely based on Finley’s identifications, though with some alternative explanations, in their number order. Compositions ‘7’ to ‘15’ are described in more detail in the entry for the inside back cover of the sketchbook. References are made to other sketches of the subjects in the King’s Visit to Edinburgh sketchbook (D17508–D17671; D40687–D40688 complete; Turner Bequest CC) where more information on each subject is given, and to subsequent works based on the compositions.
Composition ‘1’ is described by Gerald Finley as ‘The Mission of Sir Walter Scott’.2 This is his title for the first official welcome of George IV to Scotland on 14 August 1822, when Scott was rowed out to the King’s yacht, The Royal George, shortly after the royal squadron had arrived at Leith Roads (see Tate D17590; Turner Bequest CC 49a). While the sketch is rather faint it is possible to make out two boats: the larger at the centre of the composition and a smaller vessel in front of it to the right. There may also be more vessels to the right. Their relative sizes and positions suggest that these are the Royal George and the barge conveying Scott. The same basic composition is used for the unfinished oil painting that Finley identified as the Mission of Sir Walter Scott, circa 1823 (Tate N02879).3 A variant of the composition, based more directly on a sketch in the King’s Visit to Edinburgh sketchbook (Tate D17615; Turner Bequest CC 62) was also used for the frontispiece to volume two of the 1826 edition of the Provincial Antiquities (Tate D13749; Turner Bequest CLXVIII B), which includes a view of Edinburgh in the background and the motif of Scott and George IV’s clasped hands.
Finley’s proposal was examined in the exhibition Turner and George IV in Edinburgh, Tate Gallery, 1981; Finley 1981.
Finley 1981, p.32.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.153–4 no.248a.
Butlin and Joll 1984, p.154 no.248b; see Finley 1981, pp.32–3.
Finley 1981, p.33.
Butlin and Joll 1984, p.153 no.248.
Finley 1981, pp.37–8.