Joseph Mallord William Turner

Details of the Interior of St Giles’s Cathedral, Edinburgh


View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 114 x 187 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CC 32 a

Catalogue entry

Turner made four pages of studies of the interior of St Giles’s Cathedral of which this is one of two pages of sketches of architectural details (see folio 33; D17558); the other two being full page views (folio 33 verso, 34; D17559, D17560). The studies here and on folio 33 seem to have been intended to clarify details from the views on folios 33 verso and 34, and concentrate on parts of columns, the ceiling, windows and the royal pew, suggesting that Turner established his composition before making any sketches.
At the top left corner of the page with the sketchbook inverted is the inscription ‘5 mullions’ above four vertical lines (most of the windows in the cathedral have four mullions). Beneath this is a sketch of the trace work of one of the windows seen through the arches in folio 33 verso. Turner could not resist sketching the elaborate design of the Great East Window on folio 33.
Parts of various columns are sketched at the right of the page. At the upper right are two of the columns from the north aisle, with the capital of one of them (as seen at the far right of Turner’s painting, George IV at St Giles, Edinburgh, circa 1822 (Tate N02857)1 drawn more clearly. A few lines indicate the wall and ceiling, and shading shows the shadowy depths of the church beyond. Below are two sketches of the bases of columns; one showing the shape as seen from above, and one in profile. To the left is the capital of one of the columns in the nave. In the centre of the page is a drawing of the cathedral’s fan vaulting where it connects to a column. This detail is just out of frame at the top of folio 33 verso, so Turner probably turned the page to drawn it here instead.
The other sketches on the page are parts of the royal pew. Just to the left of the vaulting is one of the four pillars that support the canopy with an urn-shaped pinnacle. The crown to the right of this belongs at the top of the canopy. At the bottom of the page is a sketch showing the panelling of the pew with the royal crest on the front panel. Along the top of this is a tasselled fringe that Turner described as a ‘crimson curtain’. These details were all incorporated in the George IV at St Giles’s painting. There is another sketch of the pew on folio 33.

Thomas Ardill
October 2008

Butlin and Joll 1984, p.153 no.247.

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