J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours

Joseph Mallord William Turner The Provost's Banquet, Parliament House, Edinburgh 1822

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
The Provost’s Banquet, Parliament House, Edinburgh 1822
D34945
Turner Bequest CCCXLIV d 445
Pencil on buff wove card, 112 x 74 mm
Blindstamped with the Turner Bequest stamp bottom
Stamped in black ‘CCCXLIV 445’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
David Wallace-Hadrill and Gerald Finley both identified this sketch and several others drawn on the same small pieces of card as representing the banquet held for King George IV at Parliament House in Edinburgh on 24 August 1822.1 Finley had originally assumed that the sketches related to George IVs’ coronation in 1821, and that Turner, though present at the banquet, had not been able to make any on-the-spot sketches. He later concluded, however, that this sketch, along with Tate D34941 and D34946 (Turner Bequest CCCXLIV d 441, 146), were made at the banquet, Turner having opted to use the cards instead of his sketchbook as they ‘would have been held comfortably in the palm of the hand, permitting Turner surreptitiously to record this particular event’.2
Wallace-Hadrill noted that the sketch at the top of this card depicts a ‘banquet similar to [the] oil’ painting,3 George IV at the Provost’s Banquet in the Parliament House, Edinburgh, circa 1822 (Tate N02858).4 The banquet was one of a series of official events to take place during George IV’s visit to Edinburgh in 1822. Turner, perhaps at the prompting of Walter Scott who organised many of the events, followed the King to Edinburgh to sketch the festivities; see George IV Visit to Edinburgh 1822 Tour Introduction. He probably gained entry to the event through his friend the architect Robert Cockerell.5 The artist David Wilkie, another friend of Turner’s, was also present; see Tate D34950 (Turner Bequest CCCXLIV d 349v). On his return to London he began his painting of the event, though it was never finished. This sketch depicts the King’s table at the banquet and closely resembles the composition study that he made of the subject in the back of the King at Edinburgh sketchbook (Tate D40979; Turner Bequest CCI 43a), which was presumably based on this sketch. There is a sketch of the canopy above the King’s seat and a candelabrum on Tate D34941 (Turner Bequest CCCXLIV d 441).
The moment that is depicted in the oil painting, and presumably the composition study and present sketch, is when the King was presented with a silver basin of rose water to wash his hands by William Howison Craufurd attended by Walter Scott’s son, Charles, and his nephew Walter (see Tate D34946; Turner Bequest CCCXLIV d 446).6 Beneath the sketch are four figures studies. The top-left of these is recognisable as George IV, ‘who was dressed in a field-marshal’s uniform’,7 and whose haircut is quite distinctive and recognisable from the oil painting. A sketch on Tate D34943 (Turner Bequest CCCXLIV d 443) may also depict George IV. Beneath him is a figure with a dark collar that is recognisable at the centre of the group above. His uniform suggests that he is perhaps the Lord Provost, Sir William Arbuthnot, or perhaps the Reverend Baird.8 To his right is a moustachioed figure in military uniform, perhaps someone like the Duke of Hamilton (Alexander Douglas Hamilton). To the right of the King is a wigged figure, perhaps Craufurd who is shown kneeling and wearing such a wig in the oil painting. To the left of the King Turner has sketched a figure’s hair only. This may have been an abandoned sketch of King George. Further figure studies made at the banquet are on Tate D34943 (Turner Bequest CCCXLIV d 443).
Further sketches of the banquet on card are Tate D34940–D34946 and perhaps D34950 (Turner Bequest CCCXLIV d 440–446, 449v). The following sketches were also made on the same type, or at least roughly the same size, of card: Tate D34947–D34949, D34951, D40407 (Turner Bequest CCCXLIV d 447, 448, 449, 450, 448v).
1
David Wallace-Hadrill, ‘Tate Box 12 (TB CCCXLIV)’, 1994, Tate catalogue files; Finley 1999, p.225 note 35.
2
Finley 1999, p.225 note 35.
3
Wallace-Hadrill 1994.
4
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, p.153 no.248.
5
Gerald Finley, Turner and George the Fourth in Edinburgh 1822, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1981, p.22.
6
Gerald Finley, Turner and George the Fourth in Edinburgh 1822, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1981, pp.13, 22, 37–8.
7
Robert Mudie, An Historical Account of His Majesty’s Visit to Scotland, Edinburgh 1822, p.232.
8
The seating arrangement of the banquet is described in Mudie 1822, p.232.
Verso:
Inscribed in red ink by John Ruskin ‘CCCXLIV <430> <442> bottom right
Inscribed in pencil by ?A.J. Finberg ‘445’ bottom right
Although the Turner Bequest group number of this work (CCCXLIV) has remained the same, the sheet number has changed twice. John Ruskin was the first to cross out his original red ink number (430) and replace it with a new one (442), before a subsequent cataloguer, probably A.J. Finberg, crossed that out and replaced it with a new number in pencil (445).

Thomas Ardill
February 2011

How to cite

Thomas Ardill, ‘The Provost’s Banquet, Parliament House, Edinburgh 1822 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, February 2011, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, December 2012, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/joseph-mallord-william-turner-the-provosts-banquet-parliament-house-edinburgh-r1140408, accessed 21 December 2014.