Joseph Mallord William Turner

Dunblane Cathedral, the Nave, and the North Side


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 113 × 190 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXIX 57

Catalogue entry

Turner seems to have passed through Dunblane on his journey between Stirling and Callander, part of a larger tour of Scotland in 1834: See Tour of Scotland for Scott’s Prose Works 1834 Tour Introduction. Though his sequence of sketches of the city it is possible to trace Turner’s movements around Dunblane and on to village of Doune.1
Passing through the city he took the opportunity to make a quick, though systematic study of the cathedral ruins and their setting in the landscape, suggesting that, even if he had no final picture in mind, he certainly saw the potential for a view of Dunblane with the cathedral. The sequence begins on the present page with a close-up study of the cathedral shell from within and without. There are further close-up study on the reverse of this page, folio 57 verso (D26368), which also contains a view from a little to the north. Two further views from the north are on folio 58 (D26369). Turner then began a sequence of sketches showing the cathedral from the Allan Water to the south, folio 58 verso (D26371), before striking off to the west towards Doune where he made his first studies of the castle. One of these studies includes the cathedral in the background to the east: folio 59 (D26372).
The present sketch, drawn across the inside half of the page, is a view towards the west end of the nave from inside the cathedral. The building was a victim of the Reformation and while the choir remained in use the rest was neglected and the roof of the nave collapsed.2 At the bottom of the sketch are some faintly drawn squares, presumably depicting pieces of fallen masonry. The former splendour of the thirteenth-century cathedral is captured however by the dramatic perspective of Turner’s sketch and his details of the stonework on the columns and arches and the trace-work of the west window. From this viewpoint Turner could only include four of the six arches so he inscribed the number ‘6’ next to the first arch to the left of window to remind him of the total number.

Thomas Ardill
October 2010

First identified by Henry J. Crawford 1939, vol.3, part 2, pp.70–72.
The cathedral was restored in the late nineteenth century.

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