Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 79 Verso:
View of Edinburgh, from the Stewart Monument, Calton Hill 1834
Turner Bequest CCLXIX 79a
Turner Bequest CCLXIX 79a
Pencil on off-white wove paper, 113 x 190 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
A.J. Finberg, A Complete Inventory of the Drawings of the Turner Bequest, London 1909, vol.II, p.867, CCLXIX 79a, as ‘View from Edinburgh, from the Burns’ Monument.’.
Dr David Wallace-Hadrill and Janet Carolan, ‘Turner’s Sketches North of Stirling’, Turner Studies: His Art and Epoch 1775 – 1851, Vol.10 No.1, Summer 1990, p.12.
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.
The monument appears on this page at the left side of the sketch where it was seen from the path running around the top of the hill to the west of the Royal Observatory. Just beneath it is the Governor’s House of Calton Gaol with North Bridge beyond it, the spire of St Giles’s Cathedral to the right, Edinburgh Castle at the upper centre, and the General Register House at the right. A separate sketch at the top right of the page depicts two tall structures. These may be the spire of St Andrew’s Church and the statue and column of the Melville Monument in Edinburgh’s New Town.
The other sketches in this sequence represent alternative compositions of the view of Edinburgh with the same elements. Turner had taken the same approach three days earlier when he made sketches of the city with St Anthony’s Chapel in the foreground (see folio 89 verso; D26431).
Finberg 1909, II, p.867, CCLXIX 76a–79a.
Robert Cadell, Diary 1834, Saturday 4 October 1834, National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh MS 21024, folio 43.
Ibid.; see Gerald Finley, Landscapes of Memory: Turner as Illustrator to Scott, London 1980, Appendix 2 ‘The Scott Monument’, pp.232–9.
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.
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