Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Canopy, with the King’s Arms, and a Candelabra at the Provost’s Banquet, Edinburgh


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

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 74 x 112 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCCXLIV 441

Catalogue entry

The sketches on this small piece of card were made at the Provost’s Banquet held for King George IV on 24 August 1822 at Parliament House in Edinburgh.1 Turner was at the banquet and brought with him a small handful of cards so that he could make discreet sketches of the event. Tate D39945 (Turner Bequest CCCXLIV d 445) depicts George IV at the head table.
Finberg’s title, ‘A canopy with the king’s arms’, conflates the sketch at the centre with Turner’s note at the right. Rather than the King’s arms, the canopy is emblazoned with George IV’s monogram: ‘GR’. The ‘king’s arms’ refers to the coat of arms that should appear between the curtains that Turner sketched at the right with the card turned to the left. As the arms were familiar, yet difficult to sketch, Turner neglected to draw them, deciding that a note would suffice. The canopy, crowned by the arms of George IV and surrounded by the curtain, can be seen more clearly in an engraving by W.H. Lizars, The Banquet in Parliament House, 1822 (Edinburgh City Libraries),2 which confirms the identification of this sketch. It is interesting to note that Turner also paid particular attention to the Kings’ pew and canopy at St Giles’s Cathedral where a special service was held the next day; there are studies of the service in the King’s Visit to Edinburgh sketchbook (Tate D17559; Turner Bequest CC 33a).
A contemporary account of the banquet by Robert Mudie also described the appearance of the King’s table:
At the south end, which has a fine large Gothic window, a curtain of crimson cloth, with yellow fringing, served as a drapery to the royal arms, which surmounted the chair and canopy of state, and covered the whole of the window.3
At the left, drawn with the card turned to the right, is a sketch of a candelabrum. The same account of the banquet describes
a profusion of lights upon the tables, beaming from candlesticks variously formed, of the most beautifully chased workmanship. Above the middle of the Hall, upon the table, there was one candelabrum of exquisite workmanship, which alone cost L.2000.4
Finley 1999, p.225 note 35.
Reproduced in Gerald Finley, Turner and George the Fourth in Edinburgh 1822, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1981, p.12 pl.5.
Robert Mudie, An Historical Account of His Majesty’s Visit to Scotland, Edinburgh 1822, p.228.
Ibid., p.229.
Ibid. p.232.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, p.153 no.248.

Thomas Ardill
February 2011

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