Joseph Mallord William Turner

Boats of the Royal Squadron and Sketches of the Firth of Forth


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 114 × 187 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CC 6 a

Catalogue entry

There are three sketches on this page, two of which show boats of the royal squadron which were anchored throughout the King’s visit at Leith Roads (see George IV’s Visit to Edinburgh 1822 Introduction). The main sketch shows a three-masted yacht or frigate bedecked with flags, two of which bear crosses, and bunting. Turner has neglected to draw any of the boat except parts of the masts and bowsprit, concentrating instead on the decoration, although that is extensive enough to define the shape of the ship. Turner took such an interest in the decorative appearance of these boats that he invented visual shorthand to indicate bunting through a series of short horizontal dashes that following the line on which they are hung (see folio 64; D17618).
At the left, with the sketchbook turned to the right, is a sketch of the coast – perhaps of Fife – with two boats. More of the coastline is sketched beneath. The vessel at the left is in the process of lowering its sails, with the cross-spar removed from the main but still present on the foremast; a rolled sail is still attached to the mizzenmast. The boat may be the King’s Yacht, The Royal George (folio 4; D17514), though it is not depicted in enough detail to be certain. At the right is a vessel at sail, leaning over in a close reach with a flag flying from the top of its mast.
The inscription referring to the main sketch is indecipherable, though it may refer to the ‘masts’.

Thomas Ardill
August 2008

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