Joseph Mallord William Turner

Figures with a Hand-Cart; and a Tower on a Hill, probably St Anthony’s Chapel

1818

Not on display

Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Graphite on paper
Dimensions
Support: 112 × 90 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D13578
Turner Bequest CLXVI 66 a

Catalogue entry

With the sketchbook turned to the left, Turner has used this page for two sketches. At the top is a study of three of four figures pushing, pulling and walking with a handcart, another version of which appears on the opposite page (folio 67; D13579). The figures are rapidly sketched, but there is enough detail to indicate the look of the cart and their clothing, and to capture a sense of their purpose.
Turner did not use the scene directly in any of his watercolours or paintings, but there are in his Scottish subjects many figures with the same characteristics as those in this study, and his watercolour, Heriot’s Hospital, circa 1819 (National Gallery of Scotland),1 includes several figures pushing a cart, this time full of coal and with the aid of a horse. During his previous visit to Scotland in 1801, Turner had kept a sketchbook of Scotch Figures (Tate D03440–D03631 complete sketchbook; Turner Bequest LIX;), showing individuals and small groups, many in highland dress, and most engaged in street activities like the studies on the present and following folios, including one of two men with a cart (Tate D03450; Turner Bequest LIX 10). Although he did not dedicate a sketchbook to them during this tour there are several other figure studies scattered throughout the 1818 Scottish sketchbooks (see folio 67; D13579).
The sketch at the bottom of this page may show the side of Arthur’s Seat with the ruin of St Anthony’s Chapel looking over the city of Edinburgh with the outline of the castle on the horizon. The view is one of Edinburgh’s most famous and is included in Scott’s Provincial Antiquities with an engraving by George Cooke after A.W. Calcott.2 Turner also sketched the view in 1801 and 1822 as well as during this tour (see Bass Rock and Edinburgh Sketchbook, Tate D13422; Turner Bequest CLXVI 55a for further references).

Thomas Ardill
January 2008

1
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.426 no.1064.
2
‘Edinburgh from St Anthony’s Chapel’, Walter Scott, The Provincial Antiquities and Picturesque Scenery of Scotland with Descriptive Illustrations by Sir Walter Scott, Bart., Volume II, London and Edinburgh 1826, Vol.I p.[65].

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