Joseph Mallord William Turner

View of Edinburgh from the Eastern Foot of Arthur’s Seat


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

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 99 x 159 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXV 55 a

Catalogue entry

Drawn from the foot of Arthur’s Seat, this view of Calton Hill with Edinburgh Castle in the distance is similar to the sketch on folio 55 verso (D13418; CLXV 53a). Calton Hill is on the right, and the outline of Edinburgh Castle can be made out at the centre in the distance. At the left is the ruin of St Anthony’s Chapel. Unlike the view on 55 verso, however, where the monument is a mere silhouette, Turner has in the present drawing paid attention to its square base and it top section. But while its architect Robert Burn designed the structure to recall the shape of an upturned telescope (with the shaft divided into increasingly narrow sections until it reaches the eyepiece at the top), Turner, by exaggerating the size of the turreted section, makes it look more like the crow’s nest of a ship, emphasising, in his own way, the nautical theme of the monument.
The view of Edinburgh from St Anthony’s Chapel was well known and was accordingly illustrated for the third number of Scott’s Provincial Antiquities with an engraving by George Cooke after A.W. Calcott. Turner also sketched the view elsewhere in this sketchbook (D13424, D13426, D13428; CLXV 56a, 57a, 58a), and in the Edinburgh, 1818 sketchbook (Tate D13564; Turner Bequest CLXVI 59a). There are also sketches from 1801 in the Edinburgh (1801) sketchbook (Tate D02816–D02819; Turner Bequest LV 4a–6), from 1822 in the King’s Visit to Scotland sketchbook (Tate D17573, D17574; Turner Bequest CC 40a, 41), and in the Stirling and Edinburgh sketchbook (1831/4) (Tate D26424, D26427, D26429–D26431; Turner Bequest CCLXIX 86, 87a, 88a–89a).

Thomas Ardill
November 2007

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