Joseph Mallord William Turner

Continuation of a View of Edinburgh from Calton Hill; Composition Perhaps Relating to the Regalia Ceremony at Holyrood; Granton Castle and the Firth of Forth with Inchkeith


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 36

Catalogue entry

Half of the page is filled with a view of Edinburgh from Calton Hill continued from folio 35 verso (D17563). This page shows the New Town area of Edinburgh from the north side of the old North Bridge which spans the two pages with Edinburgh Castle above it. To the right from top to bottom are the spire of St Andrew’s Church in George Street, the Melville Monument, St Cutherbert’s Church and Regent Bridge. The view is reminiscent of Turner’s watercolour Edinburgh from Calton Hill (circa 1819, National Gallery of Scotland)1 and sketches that he made in preparation for it in 1818 (Tate D13651–D13652, D13654; Turner Bequest CLXVII 39a–40, 41).
At the top of the page is a small drawing of a lively scene that Gerald Finley suggests may be one of the ‘compositions perhaps related to the Regalia ceremony held at Holyrood.’ This also relates to composition ‘7’ of the Royal Progress cycle (King at Edinburgh sketchbook inside back cover; Tate D40980) which similarly shows a crowded room with arcading.
The ceremony, devised by Sir Walter Scott, took place shortly after George IV arrived at Holyrood Palace on 15 August 1822. At this ceremony, the Regalia of Scotland – the crown, sceptre and sword of state – was received in the King’s presence by the traditional bearers, and the King heard several addresses.
Finley, however, points to a possible objection to his identification: the Throne Room, which his source states was the location of the event, had no arcading. It was, however, ‘decorated with gilded mouldings’,2 ‘which may explain the architectural character of the room in Turner’s composition’.3 Further research, however, indicates that the room used as the Throne Room during this and other ceremonies, previously known as the Guard Chamber, was hung with crimson cloths and curtains with large tassels, and that there were a series of long windows and no arcading.4 The sketch, however, certainly has the character of an event such as the ceremony of the Regalia, and the scribbled figures and shading do fit John Prebble’s description of the room as ‘crowded and shadowed’.5 Turner, as Finley concedes, may have drawn the ceremony from his imagination. Unfortunately no clues have yet been gleaned from Turner’s inscriptions which may read: ‘Half In’ and ‘Gun’

Thomas Ardill
September 2008

Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.426 no.1062
Anon, A Narrative of the Visit of George IV to Scotland, Edinburgh 1822, p.6
Finley 1981, p.34.
I am grateful for the advise of Deborah Clarke, Assistant Curator at the Royal Collection, on which room was used for the ceremony and how it was decorated, and for drawing my attention to a illustration of the ‘State Room’ used during George IV’s visit in a descriptive account of Holyroodhouse published in 1826 (illustrated in Ian Gow’s The Scottish Interior, 1993).
John Prebble, The King’s Jaunt: George IV in Scotland, August 1822 ‘One and twenty daft days’, Edinburgh 1988, p.252.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, p.153 no.247.
Finley 1981, p.35.

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