Joseph Mallord William Turner

Hermitage Bridge on the River Bran, with Ossian’s Hall, Dunkeld


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 114 × 184 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest LVI 134 a

Catalogue entry

Drawn with the pages turned horizontally, the subject is continued on folio 137 recto opposite (D03176; Turner Bequest LVI 135). This is a nearer view of the bridge that appears on folios 135 verso–136 recto (D03173–D03174; Turner Bequest LVI 133a–134). While Finberg thought that the structure was the Rumbling Bridge,1 further up the River Bran, the glimpse here of the corner of a building indicates that this is the Hermitage, a pavilion or summer-house also known as Ossian’s Hall (commemorating the Gaelic Bard popularised in the mid-eighteenth century by James Macpherson’s bogus ‘translation’). It was erected in 1758 by John Murray of Strowan, nephew of the 2nd Duke of Atholl, above a waterfall spanned by the bridge.
Furthermore, the additional arch visible to the right is a feature of the Hermitage Bridge but not of the Rumbling Bridge, though Turner’s exaggeration of the depth of the ravine increases the similarity with the latter. The interior of Ossian’s Hall was lined with mirror-glass so that the surrounding waterfalls were echoed visually all round the viewer standing within. The whole Hermitage group and its immediate surroundings, which were laid out as a public pleasure ground, constitutes one of the most ambitious and effective of eighteenth-century landscape designs. There is an even closer view of the bridge on folios 137 verso–138 recto (D03177–D03178; Turner Bequest LVI 135a–136).

Andrew Wilton
May 2013

See Finberg 1909, I, p.148.

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