Joseph Mallord William Turner

Sketches of The Royal Squadron at Leith Perhaps Showing Sir Walter Scott’s Barge Approaching the ‘Royal George’


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

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 68 a

Catalogue entry

Three sketches on this page, used with the sketchbook inverted, show shipping at Leith and relate, according to Gerald Finley, to the Mission of Sir Walter Scott (see folio 49 verso; D17590).1 At the top is a view of shipping with the east side of Leith in the background. Arthur’s Seat is at the far right with a line of smoke blowing east from the bonfire that was lit in celebration of the King’s arrival.2
The inscription above it may refer with the word ‘gun’, to the six-gun battery placed on Salisbury Craigs, during the visit.3 Another inscription, ‘Glas[s] Hou[se]’, refers to one of Leith’s many glass manufacturers, a major industry in the town.4 The reference to a ‘Green’ vessel is familiar from a number of other sketches (folio 52; D17595) and could refer to Admiral Beresford’s barge which conveyed Sir Walter Scott and Robert Peel to the King’s yacht on 14 August. The barge may be shown again, this time with its flag more prominently shown (as in the recto of this page; D17625) and again in the bottom sketch where it may be coming alongside another boat. Here, unlike in other sketches of the barge, the oarsmen are shown.

Thomas Ardill
August 2008

Finley 1981, p.85.
John Prebble, The King’s Jaunt: George IV in Scotland, August 1822 ‘One and twenty daft days’, Edinburgh 1988, p.231.
Prebble 1988, p.204.
Basil Skinner notes the chimney of Leith Glass works at the left of James Skene’s watercolour, The Royal Barge Approaching Leith Shore, circa 1822, Edinburgh Public Libraries; Basil Skinner, Visit of George IV to Edinburgh 1822: an Exhibition of Paintings, Drawings, and engravings by Contemporary Artists Depicting the Ceremonies and Personalities Involved, The Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh 1961, p.6.Turner may have been stuck by their illuminations that evening that had a design of a crown with the initials ‘G.F.’, and on 22 August by the costumes of the company of glass-blowers who each carried glass rods, and whose head wore a sword, target and hat made of glass; Robert Mudie, An Historical Account of His Majesty’s Visit to Scotland, Edinburgh 1822, pp.128, 192.

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