Joseph Mallord William Turner

View of Edinburgh, from the Stewart Monument, Calton Hill

1834

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

Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Graphite on paper
Dimensions
Support: 113 x 190 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D26411
Turner Bequest CCLXIX 79 a

Catalogue entry

This is the last of Turner’s seven sketches of Edinburgh from the Stewart Monument on Calton Hill: folios 76 verso–79 verso (D26405–D26411). These have previously been identified as ‘Edinburgh from Burns’ Monument’,1 an easy mistake as the two monuments are close by and similar in appearance. There are further views from Calton Hill on folios 80–81 (D26412–D26414).
Robert Cadell recorded in his diary on 4 October 1834 that ‘Turner came back at 12, [and I] walked with him [...] to Calton Hill’.2 The publisher’s main purpose was apparently ‘to look at [the] South East corner for a Monument to Sir Walter Scott.’3 It was probably on this occasion however that Turner took the opportunity to make sketches of the excellent view of Edinburgh.
A few sketches show the city from the lower slopes of the hill (folio 37; D26331), or buildings and other sketches on the hill top (folios 78 verso and 85; D26409, D26422), but the majority of the sketches focus on the view from the west end of the hill with the Dugald Stewart Monument in the foreground. The monument to the philosopher and mathematician Dugald Stewart (1753–1828) was built by W. H. Playfair in 1831. While this is undoubtedly an excellent and popular vantage point, the reoccurrence of the monument suggests that Turner considered it along with the city beyond to be essential to his composition.4
Bearing in mind the context of Turner’s visit to Scotland, and his trip to Calton Hill with Robert Cadell, it is worth considering whether the subject has a connection to Sir Walter Scott. Turner had come to Scotland to sketch subjects to be illustrated for a new edition of Scott’s Prose Works, the Waverley Novels, and John Gibson Lockhart’s forthcoming Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott, 1837–8. Of these three projects the only one with a connection to Dugald Stewart is the Life of Scott, as the poet had studied under Stewart who was professor of Moral Philosophy at the University of Edinburgh.5 An illustration of Edinburgh with this reference to Stewart could therefore have been deemed appropriate as a possible illustration of Scott’s student years. However Cadell, the publisher of this volume, made no mention of such an illustration and the connection is perhaps a little too tenuous. A better context for the inclusion of the Stewart Monument may therefore be the city of Edinburgh. Turner may have been suggesting that the city had grown under the influence of Stewart’s Enlightenment thinking.

Thomas Ardill
November 2010

1
Finberg 1909, II, p.867, CCLXIX 76a–79a.
2
Robert Cadell, Diary 1834, Saturday 4 October 1834, National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh MS 21024, folio 43.
3
Ibid.; see Gerald Finley, Landscapes of Memory: Turner as Illustrator to Scott, London 1980, Appendix 2 ‘The Scott Monument’, pp.232–9.
4
It seems very unlikely that Turner himself would have confused the Stewart Monument with the Burns’ Monument. Although the two look alike, the Stewart Monument has ‘Dugald Stewart’ clearly engraved on the base, and Robert Cadell, who accompanied the artist, would have been able to advise him about the different monuments on Calton Hill.
5
Michael P. Brown, ‘Stewart, Dugald (1753–1828)’, 2004, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edition, May 2008, accessed 24 Nov 2010, http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/26471.

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