Joseph Mallord William Turner

Ardtornish Castle


Not on display

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 91 × 153 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXXIV 6 a

Catalogue entry

The sketch of a ruin on a promontory, and the sketch above of what looks like the mouth of a loch, were made, along with the rest of the sketches in this book, as Turner steamed up the Sound of Mull on his way from Oban to the Isle of Skye. David Wallace-Hadrill and Janet Carolan, who studied Turner’s route and identified many of his sketches, contradict themselves in an unpublished article by suggesting two different identifications for the castle depicted on this page. In the checklist at the end of the article they identify it as ‘Probably Duart Castle’,1 while in the body of the article they argue that it is ‘probably of Tioram’ Castle (along with sketches on folios 9–10; D26951–D26953).2 The present author, however, disagrees with both suggestions.
There is a sketch of Duart Castle on folio 5 verso (D26945) that shows the ruin as a square-shaped tower house with a lowered gabled building to the left. The building in the present sketch, while also situated on a promontory with a hill behind, has quite a different shape, the walls being more disintegrated and with either the remains of a tower or a higher section of wall still standing on the nearside. Neither do the ruins closely resemble those of Tioram Castle, which remained more intact, with a central building with two gables and bartizans surrounded by a curtain wall. Tioram Castle also stands on a peninsular rather than a sloping promontory as is shown here.
An alternative suggestion, and one that fits the order of sketches more closely, is Ardtornish Castle, which stands on a promontory sticking into the Sound of Mull near the entrance to Loch Aline in Morvern. The sketch at the top of the page could therefore be the mouth of Loch Aline. The shape of the promontory fits Ardtornish Point quite well, and the ruin is a good match for the castle as it stands today, as seen from the Sound of Mull to the north. A sketch on folio 9 (D26951) may show the castle from the south, and is an even closer match for the ruins of Ardtornish. The ruins sketched twice on the reverse of this page (folio 6; D26946) have a similar appearance and may also show the same subject.

Thomas Ardill
February 2010

David Wallace-Hadrill and Janet Carolan, ‘Turner on the Isle of Skye 1831’, [circa 1991], Tate catalogue files, [folio 29].
Ibid. folio 6.

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