Joseph Mallord William Turner

View of Edinburgh from Leith, with the Royal Squadron at Anchor


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 62 a

Catalogue entry

Gerald Finley associates the sketches over this and the following page (folio 63; D17617) ‘with the design of the vignette of Scott’s Provincial Antiquities and Picturesque Scenery of Scotland, Volume 2: The Mission of Walter Scott’. His statement is presumably based on the similarity of the largest vessel on the present page with the Royal George in the vignette design, and its similar position against the distant Edinburgh skyline; as well as the detailed drawings of Edinburgh and Leith from the north on this page and folio 63 that may have informed the background in the vignette.
Although the two sketches on the present page both appear to be continued across folio 63 because the lines of the hillsides match, the drawings on each page are in fact distinct, with one view of shipping in Leith Roads and another of Leith with Edinburgh in the background on each page. At the top of the present page is a view taken from a boat on the Firth of Forth looking south towards Leith with Edinburgh in the distance. At the left is Nelson’s Monument on Calton Hill, with Calton Gaol on its western slope. On the skyline to the right are the spires of the Tron Kirk and St Giles’s Cathedral on Edinburgh High Street, then the Melville Monument in St Andrew’s Square and the spire of St Andrew’s church on George Street with Edinburgh Castle at the right and the Pentland Hills beyond. Leith is represented with a series of blocks with no particularly distinctive parts.
The lower sketch shows two vessels, one moored in front of the other, and while the larger one could be the King’s yacht, the Royal George, as Finley’s description suggests, the other is too large to be Sir Walter Scott’s barge which is seen approaching in the vignette. The closely grouped boats to the left, however, to somewhat resemble those at the left of the vignette composition.
Another problem with Finley’s reading is that the viewpoint of both sketches differs from that of the vignette. While the same topographical features are shared, the relative positions of Arthur’s Seat and Calton Hill differ, with Calton Hill to the right of Arthur’s Seat in the present drawing, but to the left in the vignette. In other words the viewpoint shifts from the north to north by north-west.

Thomas Ardill
September 2008

Finley 1981, p.32.

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