Joseph Mallord William Turner

Studies of ‘H.M.S. Dover’ and Other Shipping at Leith


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

Graphite on paper
Support: 114 x 187 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CC 61 a

Catalogue entry

This page was used for a number of sketches associated with the royal squadron at Leith. The largest drawing, made with the sketchbook inverted, and most of the smaller sketches are of HMS Dover, the flagship of Admiral Sir John Beresford’s station, which Prebble describes as ‘the smartest of the Royal squadron’.1 Like Turner’s drawing of the Royal George on folio 4 of this sketchbook (D17514), this is a rather diagrammatic, if quick, sketch that records the main features of the vessel for future reference. Turner notes the ‘white sails’ and ‘12’ embrasures as well as the flag-pole and flag at the stern of the ship (which appears as if folded outwards in the drawing) and the distinctive bow and figurehead. Two sketches show details of the ship, the ‘Bulk head’ (actually the bow) at the top left and the stern at the top right.
Two further sketches, to the top left and bottom right of the main sketch, show the square-rigged configuration of the boats sails, however its hull appears too shallow to be the frigate. There is another sketch of HMS Dover on folio 62 (D17615).
With the sketchbook used in the opposite direction (actually the right way up) is a small sketch of boats silhouetted against a cloudy sky. Gerald Finley has identified this as ‘the arrival of the royal squadron in the Firth of Forth’.2 The darkness of the boats suggests that we are looking east towards the mouth of the Forth where the squadron was first spotted in early morning. At the right may be an island, probably Inchkeith, suggesting that Turner was out on the water early to sketch the arrival of the boats. The sketch is an example of several drawings in this sketchbook in which boats are seen against a carefully observed and often dramatic sky (see folio 3; D17512).
For more information on Turner’s sketches at Leith see the King’s Visit to Edinburgh 1822 sketchbook Introduction.

Thomas Ardill
August 2008

John Prebble, The King’s Jaunt: George IV in Scotland, August 1822 ‘One and twenty daft days’, Edinburgh 1988, p.227.
Finley 1981, p.85.

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