Joseph Mallord William Turner

Figures: a Page, a Yeoman, and an Attendant at the Provost’s Banquet, Edinburgh


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

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 112 x 74 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCCXLIV 446

Catalogue entry

Turner made these sketches of unformed figures at the Provost’s Banquet for George IV on 24 August 1822 at Parliament House in Edinburgh. The figure at the top left is a yeoman of the guard holding a halberd. There is a study of a halberd on Tate D34943 (Turner Bequest CCCXLIV d 443) and groups of guards on Tate D36940 and D36942 (Turner Bequest CCCXLIV d 440, 442). Turner has noted that the figure at the centre right is a ‘page’. A contemporary account of the event noted that: ‘Behind His Majesty, and close to the wall, were stationed four of his pages, and four yeomen of the guard, with their halberts.’1
In the centre at the top of the page there are two views of a figure wearing a ruff. This may be either Charles or Walter Scott (the son and nephew of the poet Walter Scott) who acted as pages accompanying William Howison Craufurd in a ceremony where the King was offered a silver basin of rose water to wash his hands. One of the boys bore a salver while the other carried a silver ewer, which is likely to be the one depicted at the lower centre of the page.2 The two boys, one carrying the ewer, are shown in Turner’s painting George IV at the Provost’s Banquet in the Parliament House, Edinburgh, circa 1822 (Tate N02858);3 behind them stands a yeoman. Beneath the boy’s foot in the sketch Turner has made a separate study of a shoe which has a large buckle. This is presumably the boy’s shoe. To the right is a curved line or arrow labelled ‘10’ and the inscription ‘King’. Perhaps this is a note about the disposition of figures around George IV, denoting a distance of ten feet or a line of ten people.
The final figure at the lower right of the page, labelled ‘light blue’, may be one of the attendants at the banquet that Mudie noted were ‘all attired in blue coats’.4 These attendants can be seen in the engraving by W.H. Lizars, The Banquet in Parliament House, 1822 (Edinburgh City Libraries).5
Further studies of individual figures are on Tate D34943 and D34945 (Turner Bequest CCCXLIV d 443, 445), while other cards contain grouped figures: Tate D34940, D34932 (Turner Bequest CCCXLIV d 440 and 442). There is a sketch of the King’s table on Tate D34945. See George IV’s Visit to Edinburgh 1822 Tour Introduction for more information.
Robert Mudie, An Historical Account of His Majesty’s Visit to Scotland, Edinburgh 1822, p.232.
Mudie 1822, p.235.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, p.153 no.248.
Mudie 1822, p.230.
Reproduced in Gerald Finley, Turner and George the Fourth in Edinburgh 1822, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1981, p.12 pl.5.

Thomas Ardill
February 2011

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