Joseph Mallord William Turner

Interior: Perhaps of the Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh


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 32

Catalogue entry

Although this drawing of the interior of a building, drawn with the sketchbook inverted, has not been identified with any certainty there are several clues that could point towards Edinburgh’s Assembly Rooms as a possible location. Gerald Finley identified two sketches of a crowded room as likely to be of the Supper Room extension to the Assembly Rooms on the occasion of the Peers’ Ball, 23 August 1822 (folios 47 and 48; D17585, D17587), and two pages of sketches of costume as relating to the same event (folios 44 verso and 45; D17580, D17581). It seems likely that Turner would have made further sketches of the occasion if he were able, especially of rooms that the King was more likely to enter than the Supper Room.
At the left of the picture is a pilaster that fits photographs and Mudie’s description of those in the Principal Ball Room of the Assembly Rooms: ‘they are of the Corinthian Order, richly fluted, have gilt capitals, and reach from the floor to the ceiling’.1 The stairs in the background could be the East or Western Staircase. Other possibilities are a room in Parliament House which Turner certainly visited for the banquet on 24 August, or the Theatre Royal which he may or may not have attended on the 27th, although they are no other sketches of these buildings.

Thomas Ardill
October 2008

Robert Mudie, An Historical Account of His Majesty’s Visit to Scotland, Edinburgh 1822, p.223.

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