Joseph Mallord William Turner

Gylen Castle and Crags, Kerrera from the West


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 116 x 186 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXXIII 64 a

Catalogue entry

This is one of the sketches of Gylen Castle that Turner made from the west: folios 63 verso–67 verso (D26865–D26873). The tower is therefore seen from the west across the bay of Port a’ Chaisteil, with the crags to the west of the bay in the foreground.
An inscription, written twice by Turner at the top and lower left of the page, has puzzled scholars. Finberg read the word as ‘Dunsain’,1 which Wallace-Hadrill and Carolan have agreed with,2 suggesting that the word somehow refers to ‘Doun Donachy’, or Duncan’s Fort, which is marked on Blaeu’s 1654 map of the island at this point.3 Duncan’s Fort, however, may simply refer to Gylen Castle which was built by Duncan MacDougal of Dunollie. Therefore, it is possible that Turner’s inscription simply says ‘Duncain’, or some other variation on the name. Whether he got the word from a map or guide is not known.
See folio 73 verso (D26885; CCLXXIII 73a) for further details about Turner’s visit to Gylen Castle.

Thomas Ardill
February 2010

Finberg 1909, II, p.877.
Janet Carolan suggested in a letter to David Wallace-Hadrill that the word could read ‘Dunollie’, and therefore refer to the castle on the Argyll mainland near Oban (Carolan to Wallace-Hadrill, 6 March 1990), but the authors stuck with ‘Dunsain’ in their published article (Wallace-Hadrill and Carolan 1991, p.28).
Joan Blaeu, Atlas novus, vol.V, 1654; Wallace-Hadrill and Carolan 1991, p.28.

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