Joseph Mallord William Turner

Details of the Interior of St Giles’s Cathedral; Edinburgh from Calton Hill with the City Observatory


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 33

Catalogue entry

With the sketchbook inverted are sketches of parts of the interior of St Giles’s Cathedral, and with the book turned to the left is a view of Calton Hill associated with Turner’s composition of the ceremony of the laying of the foundation stone of the National Monument. The largest sketch on the page is of the royal pew, seen from the corner and below. Turner has paid particular attention to the panelling including at the right the royal crest which he drew again on folio 32 verso (D17557) along with the fringe around the top of the box. Less attention is paid to the canopy which he had already drawn in detail on folio 33 verso (D17559) with details of its decoration on 32 verso. Nevertheless a few faint lines do clarify its hexagonal exterior and oval interior. The thistle panel design above may also belong to the pew. At the left of the page is a sketch of the Great East Window. This is the only sketch in St Giles’s that was not utilised for Turner’s oil painting, George IV at St Giles, Edinburgh, circa 1822 (Tate N02857).1
The Calton Hill sketch is related, as Gerald Finley has noticed, to Turner’s composition ‘17’ of the ‘Royal Progress’ series (see Tate D40979; Turner Bequest CCI 43a), and shows figures crowded around the site where the foundation stone of the National Monument was laid on 27 August 1822. The crane that Turner drew on folio 34 verso (D17561) is faintly visible and the ceremony is clearly still in progress. Buildings on Calton Hill frame the tiny composition at the right (the City Observatory) and the left (Nelson’s Monument), and the city of Edinburgh with the castle can be seen beyond to the west. The sketch was copied directly for composition ‘17’, although that sketch is slightly compressed horizontally, bringing the Observatory closer to the castle. Turner also made a series of eight sketches of figures at the ceremony from the top of Nelson’s Monument (see folio 22 verso, D17540).

Thomas Ardill
October 2008

Butlin and Joll 1984, p.153 no.247.

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