Joseph Mallord William Turner

Foundation Stone of the National Monument, Calton Hill; and Sketches of the Firth of Forth

1822

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

Medium
Graphite on paper
Dimensions
Support: 114 x 187 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D17561
Turner Bequest CC 34 a

Catalogue entry

Gerald Finley has identified the main drawing on this page as the ‘Crane for installing the foundation stone of the National Monument’ and explains:
Turner represents the moment after the foundation stone was set in place. The crane is shown moving the great covering stone over the foundation stone, whose three rectangular cavities can be seen (they contain sealed bottles of coins, newspapers and inscription plates)1
The ceremony for the laying of the stone was held on 27 August 1822, and Turner witnessed the event from the top of Nelson’s Monument just a few yards to the south on Calton Hill, from where he made a series of rapid sketches recording the progress of the ceremony (see folio 22 verso; D17540). This sketch, however, was clearly made from a lower vantage point, probably near the foot of the Monument, and demonstrates a very different approach to the subject. This precise line drawing carefully depicts the foundation and covering stones as well as the two platforms to the west and east where the officials of the ceremony were seated.2 Turner has paid particular attention to the crane, just as he took an interest in the launching crane of the Royal George on folio 5 verso of this sketchbook (D17517): both complex pieces of machinery that he would find hard to reproduce without a precise sketch. To the right of the stone are a series of triangular shapes. These are probably the artillerymen’s bell-tents which were pitched on the slopes of Calton Hill. The artillerymen were there to maintain the twelve guns that were placed on the hill during George IV’s visit and used to fire salutes at various points including during the laying of the foundation stone.3
At the top right of the page is the continuation from folio 35 (D17562) of a drawing of the view along the Firth of Forth towards Barnbougle Castle. There are two further views along the Forth at the left of this page, both drawn with the sketchbook turned to the right.

Thomas Ardill
October 2008

1
Finley 1981, p.83.
2
see Robert Mudie, An Historical Account of His Majesty’s Visit to Scotland, Edinburgh 1822, p.260.
3
See John Prebble, The King’s Jaunt: George IV in Scotland, August 1822 ‘One and twenty daft days’, Edinburgh 1988, p.204; and Mudie 1822, p.264.

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