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David Wallace-Hadrill seems to have been the first person to notice that this and another loose-leaf sketch (Tate D34002; Turner Bequest CCCXLI a) resemble drawings Turner made of the inside of Fingal’s Cave on the Isle of Staffa off the west coast of Scotland.1 In particular, the current sketch resembles a view of the cave mouth in the Staffa sketchbook (Tate D26798; Turner Bequest CCLXXIII 29a). Although the current sketch was very rapidly executed, the artist’s scribbled lines were enough to remind him of the volcanic basalt columns that line the walls of the cave. This is more evident in D34002 which is more finished.
Although the sketching style is very similar to the sketches in the Staffa sketchbook, suggesting that the two loose-leaf drawings were also made on the spot, the fact that the pages do not belong to a sketchbook, and that the light-grey paper was used by Turner for a number of unconnected studies, suggest that they are studies based on the sketchbook drawings. Therefore it is possible that Turner made these in the studio while preparing his vignette illustrations to Sir Walter Scott’s The Lord of the Isles, volume 10 of a new edition of his Poetical Works: Fingal’s Cave, Staffa circa 1833–4 (whereabouts unknown).2
Additional sheets relating to Fingal’s Cave (Tate D34015–D34017; Turner Bequest CCCXLI a 297, 298, 298v) were identified in 2016.
The page is blank, except for pencil inscriptions in an unknown hand ‘284’ bottom-right and ? ‘241 | o’ top-left inverted.
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After Joseph Mallord William Turner Fingal’s Cave, Staffa, engraved by Edward Goodall