Joseph Mallord William Turner

Fingal’s Cave, Staffa


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 116 × 186 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXXIII 28 a

Catalogue entry

This is one of several sketches that Turner made of the interior of Fingal’s Cave on the Isle of Staffa (also folios 27 verso–29 verso, 30 verso; D26794–D26798, D26800). The cave entrance is at the left with a horizontal line across it indicating the horizon; there is a similar sketch on folio 29. Having only an hour on the island,1 and standing at this point on a narrow ledge of broken basalt columns, it is not surprising that Turner made his sketches of the cave quite quickly. However, the rough sketches accurately capture the appearance of the cave with its striated walls made up of basalt columns, which are indicated in the sketches by vertical lines with circles for the top of columns. Therefore all of these sketches (but especially 29 and 29 verso) contributed towards Turner’s watercolour of the cave, which was engraved as a vignette to illustrate the Lord of the Isles volume of Sir Walter Scott’s Poetical Works: Fingal’s Cave, Staffa circa 1833–4 (whereabouts unknown).2
For a full list of Turner’s sketches of the Isle of Staffa and Fingal’s Cave, see folio 40 (D26817).

Thomas Ardill
March 2010

John Gage, Collected Correspondence of J.M.W. Turner with an Early Diary and a Memoir by George Jones, Oxford 1980, pp.209–10 letter 288, Turner to James Lenox, 16 August 1845.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.429 no.1089.

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