Joseph Mallord William TurnerThe Entrance Hall at Abbotsford 1831

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Artwork details

The Entrance Hall at Abbotsford
From Abbotsford Sketchbook
Turner Bequest CCLXVII
Date 1831
MediumGraphite on paper
Dimensionssupport: 113 x 185 mm
Acquisition Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXVII 68 a
View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms

Catalogue entry

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 66 Verso:
The Entrance Hall at Abbotsford 1831
Turner Bequest CCLXVII 68a
Pencil on off-white wove writing paper, 113 x 185 mm
Inscribed in pencil by Turner ‘Bl[...]’ top right and possibly another inscription ?‘Org[...]’ lower right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
This drawing of the Entrance Hall at Abbotsford is Turner’s most detailed sketch of the interior of Sir Walter Scott’s home, and has received the most attention in exhibitions and publications. Drawn with the book inverted, the drawing records the view from the entrance at the west end of the room. The hall was Scott’s showpiece, being panelled with oak from the pews of Dunfermline Abbey, and decorated with various relics of Scottish military history, coats of arms, and the first pieces of Scott’s armoury collection. At the end of the hall is the doorway through to Scott’s study, either side of this are two full suits of armour, and around the door are coats of arms. Above it is a carved figure of a saint in a gothic niche. At either end and in the centre of each rib of the ceiling are coats of arms from Scottish Baronial families, with their names inscribed above.
The northern (left) wall is hung with arms, armour and the skulls and horns of various Scottish and foreign animals. The stone fireplace was modelled on the cloisters of Melrose Abbey, and on the mantelpiece Scott kept various curiosities and relics including geological artefacts, and casts of the skulls of Shaw (a noted soldier at Waterloo) and Robert the Bruce.1 Between two doorways to the right of the fireplace was a table made from a mosaic slab that Scott purchased, with a bust on it.2

Thomas Ardill
September 2009

Scott’s interest in the objects, along with their historical significance, was to do with phrenology. It is interesting to note that Turner apparently held a conversation with one of Scott’s guests on this subject on 6 August 1831, which apparently bored Robert Cadell, who reported it in his diary. See Clive Wainwright, The Romantic Interior: the British Collector at Home, 1750–1850, London 1989, p.204, and Robert Cadell, ‘Abbotsford Diary’, 6 August 1831, folio 107 verso, National Library of Scotland, MS Acc. 5188, Box 1; reproduced in Gerald E. Finley, ‘J.M.W. Turner and Sir Walter Scott: Iconography of a Tour’, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, vol.31, 1972, p.381.
The contents on the Entrance Hall are discussed in Wainwright 1989, pp.199–206.

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