Joseph Mallord William Turner

Dun Sgathaich Castle, Skye


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 125 × 201 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXX 91 a

Catalogue entry

The four or so sketches on this page all seem to have been made around the west coast of the Sleat Peninsula on Skye. At the centre of the page is a sketch of a ruin on a coastal rock that has been identified as Dun Sgathaich Castle (also called Dun Scaith and other variations) near Tokavaig.1 The view is from the water, perhaps made as Turner left Tokavaig for the Spar Cave Landing across Loch Slapin to the west. Beneath the sketch are the inscriptions ‘SE’, indicating that the view is looking south-east, and ‘L M’ Donal’ which probably stands for Lord MacDonald. Although not built by the MacDonalds, it was in their possession for the majority of its history, a fact that probably led Sir Walter Scott to suggest that the ruin might be a good subject for Turner to illustrate for his poem The Lord of the Isles.2 Although the suggestion was dropped before Turner set off for Skye, the artist may have drawn it as an alternative, or simply out of his own interest in the Lords of the Isles. For further sketches of the castle see folio 87 verso (D26608).
The other sketches on the page, being smaller, were probably drawn after this one, perhaps from the boat on Loch Slapin. It has been suggested that the sketch at the top right of the page, inscribed ‘NW’, may show the castle rock and the small island of Eilean Ruaridh, and that the jagged outline at the bottom of the page represents the profiles on the Cuillins to the west.3 The less jagged peaks of the Red Cuillins may be represented in the sketch at the right of the page (with the sketchbook turned to the left), although the Paps of Jura have also been suggested.4

Thomas Ardill
March 2010

David Wallace–Hadrill and Janet Carolan, ‘Turner on the Isle of Skye 1831’, [circa 1991], Tate catalogue files, [folio 15].
Gerald Finley, Landscapes of Memory: Turner as Illustrator to Scott, London 1980, p.243.
Wallace-Hadrill and Carolan [circa 1991], [folio 15].

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