Joseph Mallord William Turner

Design of the King in the Royal Barge

1822

In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Dimensions
Support: 111 × 188 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D17672
Turner Bequest CCI 1

Catalogue entry

This sketch shows the departure of King George IV from his yacht, the Royal George, in the royal barge at Leith Roads on 15 August 1822, and has been related by Gerald Finley to composition ‘2’ of a series of nineteen composition studies at the back of this sketchbook which he proposes form a plan for a ‘Royal Progress’ of paintings.1 That design, and therefore, as Butlin and Joll point out, this page, are studies for the unfinished oil painting, The King’s Departure from the ‘Royal George’ in the Royal Barge, circa 1823 (Tate N02880).2 The Royal George is shown at the right of the picture, its decks crowded with figures, and its hull looming above the viewer, whose perspective is from a much smaller vessel closer to the water. A number of vessels float around the yacht’s starboard side in rather choppy water; at their centre is the royal barge which conveyed the King to the harbour at Leith.
The drawing was probably developed from sketches rather than drawn from life as there are no Scottish subjects drawn from the motif in this sketchbook. It was therefore based on composition ‘2’ with reference to sketches of the event in the King’s Visit to Edinburgh sketchbook. There are four or perhaps six sketches of the event (see Tate D17517; Turner Bequest CC 5a). The barge in this design, however, is probably based on a drawing lent to Turner by John Christian Schetky (see George IV’s Visit to Edinburgh 1822 Tour Introduction).3
D.S. MacColl has also related the oil painting to a watercolour study (Tate D25508; CCLXIII–384),4 but as Butlin and Joll have stated, ‘it is not particularly close’,5 and it seems to bear no relationship to this sketch or any other studies of the Royal George (a yacht, rather than a hulk as in the watercolour) or other shipping seen by Turner at Leith Roads in 1822.
1
Finley 1981, p.[247].
2
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, p.154 no. 248b.
3
Turner to J.C. Schetky, 3 December 1823, John Gage, Collected Correspondence of J.M.W. Turner with an Early Diary and a Memoir by George Jones, Oxford 1980, p.90, letter no.101; also quoted in Gerald Finley 1981, pp.49, 70 note 77.
4
D.S. MacColl Baker, National Gallery, Millbank: Catalogue; Turner Collection, 1920, p.42.
5
Butlin and Joll 1983, p.154 no.248b.
Verso:
Blank

Thomas Ardill
November 2008

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