Joseph Mallord William TurnerEdinburgh Castle: The North-East Battlements 1818

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Artwork details

Edinburgh Castle: The North-East Battlements
From Bass Rock and Edinburgh Sketchbook
Turner Bequest CLXV
Date 1818
MediumGraphite on paper
Dimensionssupport: 99 x 159 mm
Acquisition Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXV 64
View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms

Catalogue entry

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 66 Recto:
Edinburgh Castle: The North-East Battlements 1818
Turner Bequest CLXV 64
Pencil on white laid paper, 99 x 159 mm
Inscribed in pencil by Turner ‘Rork’
Stamped in black ‘CLXV 64’ top right running vertically
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
At the left of this page is a sketch of the battlements of Edinburgh Castle as seen from the north-east. The most distinctive feature is the turret at the part of the castle called Mill’s Mount with the Argyll Battery running to its left. The Castle sits on a huge crag known as Castle Rock and Turner’s inscription in this part of the picture presumably reads ‘Rock’, although, considering that it looks more like ‘Rork’ it is possible that Turner was imitating, mocking or getting confused by the Scottish pronunciation of the word. As David Wallace Hadrill has pointed out, Turner exhibited, in later Scottish tours, an interest in recording the Gaelic language and Scottish manner of speech.1
The sketch on the right, drawn with the book turned to the right, is a rough depiction of a ruin which may perhaps represent St Anthony’s Chapel on Arthur’s Seat (see 60 verso; D13428; CLXV 58a). A similar sketch appears on folio 67 (D13441; CLXV 65).

Thomas Ardill
November 2007

David Wallace-Hadrill has written about Turner’s phonetic transliteration of dialectical Gaelic phrases in the back of the Stirling and the West sketchbook (Tate D26436–D26618; D41082–D41083; complete sketchbook; Turner Bequest CCLXX) in an unpublished article, ‘Turner’s Gaelic Phrase-List’, 1990, Tate catalogue files.

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