Joseph Mallord William Turner Frontispiece to Volume Two of The Provincial Antiquities and Picturesque Scenery of Scotland c.1822–5

Artwork details

Artist
Title
Frontispiece to Volume Two of The Provincial Antiquities and Picturesque Scenery of Scotland
Date c.1822–5
Medium Graphite and wash on paper
Collection
Tate
Acquisition Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D13749
Turner Bequest CLXVIII B
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Catalogue entry

Executed in monochrome grey watercolour (or Indian ink) and pencil,1 this is Turner’s design for the title vignette to volume two of the 1826 bound edition of Sir Walter Scott’s Provincial Antiquities and Picturesque Scenery of Scotland (see also Tate D13748; Turner Bequest CLXVIII A). Turner had already produced a series of topographical watercolours to be engraved for the ten parts of the series (see 1818 Scottish Tour Introduction)2 and was commissioned by Scott to produce these vignettes to add interest to the bound edition following his visit to Edinburgh in 1822.
The view is of Edinburgh from Leith Roads with King George IV’s yacht, the Royal George in the foreground and other boats of the royal squadron. Turner has written the title at the top of the page along with the King’s emblem of a star and a white horse, and the royal motto, ‘DIEU ET MON DROIT’, which he has written twice, perhaps changing his mind about the size of the lettering; the motto was not included in the engraving and the title was written differently.3 At the bottom of the page Turner has added an image of two clasped hands, which emerge from smoke in the foreground.
The picture and accompanying emblems relate to the arrival of George IV and the royal squadron to Leith Roads for the royal visit of 1822. The image, which Gerald Finley calls the Mission of Sir Walter Scott,4 shows three barges approaching the royal yacht. One of these carries Sir Walter Scott who, shortly after the arrival of the squadron on 14 August, was rowed out to greet the King and welcome him to Scotland with a gift from the Ladies of Edinburgh. The meeting of Scott and King George is dramatised by the image of their clasped hands below the picture, which also symbolise the union of England and Scotland.5 In Turner’s design the King’s hand is signified by a silk sleeve, while Scott’s sleeve is tartan; they are signified in the engraving by badges of the Order of the Garter and the Thistle.6 The arrival of the King is also signalled in the picture by the smoke from the boats’ cannons, and the smoke from the bonfire on Arthur’s Seat in the distance at the left.7 Turner has symbolised the dawn of the King’s reign with a huge and brilliant sun, superimposed by the King’s emblems of the white horse and star,8 even though it is rising in the south, and the weather that day was so bad that the King had to delay his landing until the following morning.
1
Finberg 1909, I, p.488, CLXVIII A.
2
Thomson 1999.
3
W[illiam] G[eorge] Rawlinson, The Engraved Work of J.M.W. Turner, R.A., London 1908 and 1913, p.110 no.194.
4
Finley 1975, pp.31–2; Finley 1981, p.32.
5
Piggott 1993, pp.33–4.
6
The Order to the Thistle is referred to in Turner’s vignette design for Volume One with the emblem of a thistle, and the order’s motto ‘NEMO ME IMPUNE LACESSET’.
7
Robert Mudie’s, An Historical Account of His Majesty’s Visit to Scotland, Edinburgh 1822, pp.86, 89.
8
Thomson 1999, p.100.
9
Finley 1974, pp.31–5; Finley 1981, pp.32–8.
10
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.153–4 no.248a.
11
I am grateful to Pieter van der Merwe for his advice on Huggins and his suggestion that Turner could have had access to the plate, perhaps purchasing a copy from Huggins’s Leadenhall Street premises. Turner also utilised William John Huggins’s pictures of Whalers in Elhanan Bicknell’s collection as the basis of his own paintings around 1845. Pieter van der Merwe, ‘Huggins, William John (1781–1845), marine painter’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Online ed., accessed 14 August 2008

Thomas Ardill
December 2009

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