Joseph Mallord William Turner

View Looking down Leith Walk to the Firth of Forth, with the Triumphal Arch and Barrier Gate at Union Place


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 40

Catalogue entry

This view down Leith Walk towards the Firth of Forth drawn across two inverted sketchbook pages (continued on folio 39 verso; D17571) is related to one of the key ceremonies of George IV’s visit to Edinburgh: his glorious procession into the city. The event took place on 15 August 1822, although the absence of a crowd of thousands lining the route, seated on scaffolding and hanging from windows so evident in Lizars’s engraving of the event,1 suggests that this drawing was not made during the procession, although it does show evidence of the preparations for it.
Prominent in the drawing is the triumphal arch and to its right the temporary barrier that was erected to mark the King’s entrance into the city. Here on 15 August an elaborate ceremony devised by Sir Walter Scott took place:
...the Depute Lyon King at Arms and the Usher of the White Rod, preceded by two Heralds, galloped up to the gate; and, after a flourish of triumphs, the Usher of the White Rod knocked three times at the gate, which was answered by the City Officer, to whom it communicated that his Majesty desired to visit the ancient city of Edinburgh.2
The arch and barrier are drawn again in a sketch at the top of folios 39 verso and 40, made presumably to clarify the arrangement of these sketches, and show more clearly the site of the ceremony. The arch is shown from the other side on folio 40 verso (D17573) and the arch is shown again in a drawing of Leith Walk on folio 59 (D17609).
Turner has paid close attention to the different buildings on either side of Leith Walk with Picardy Place on the left of the present page, providing enough information for a watercolour painting, had he chosen to develop the subject. At the end of Leith Walk can be seen the Firth of Forth with Inchkeith and across the water the Fife bank.

Thomas Ardill
September 2008

John Prebble, The King’s Jaunt: George IV in Scotland, August 1822 ‘One and twenty daft days’, Edinburgh 1988, illustrated between pp.208–9.
Robert Mudie, An Historical Account of His Majesty’s Visit to Scotland, Edinburgh 1822, p.108.

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