Joseph Mallord William Turner

Group of Figures: Scottish Porter Reading a Newspaper


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 114 x 187 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CC 8 a

Catalogue entry

Although Turner recorded numerous figures in this sketchbook, they tend to be either anonymous participants in events – individuals and small clusters often standing in for larger crowds – frequently treated diagrammatically (for example folio 57 verso; D17606), or as mannequin-like bodies modelling interesting costumes (such as in folio 47; D17585). The group of three ‘Scotch Porters’ in ‘blue’ and ‘grey’ costumes on this page, however, make up an engaging little scene in its own right, their absorption in the newspaper they share clearly represented by their huddled arrangement with their heads inclined towards the page. Their action is representative of the excitement of thousands in Edinburgh waiting and hoping to see their sovereign. Perhaps they are on duty at Leith Harbour waiting for the arrival of George IV and reading the ‘Edinburgh Gazette Extraordinary’ that was published on the evening of 14 August, confirming that the King had delayed his landing until 12 o’clock the following day, and announcing the order of the procession into Edinburgh.1
There are several further faintly drawn figures to the right, perhaps presenting a mother with children. A similar scene is captured with a group of men women and children waiting for the King at Hopetoun House (folio 45 verso; D17582).

Thomas Ardill
September 2008

Robert Mudie, An Historical Account of His Majesty’s Visit to Scotland, Edinburgh 1822, p.89.

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