Joseph Mallord William Turner

Melrose Abbey: The Interior, Looking South


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 317 × 257 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest XXIX W

Catalogue entry

Although grouped here with other drawings on sheets of coarse buff paper of similar size, this study was evidently not made in the south of England but on Turner’s tour to the north in 1797. He records the interior of the abbey church as it was between the seventeenth century and the early nineteenth century, when it was furnished for Presbyterian worship in a space occupying the three easternmost bays of the nave. Turner’s viewpoint is on the north side of the nave, looking south towards the window of the second chapel from the crossing. The furnishings were removed in 1808, and the abbey ‘restored’ to a picturesquely ruinous state in harmony with the Romantic taste of the time. Sir Walter Scott lived close by and may have influenced the transformation.
According to architectural historian Christopher Wilson, who made the identification,1 this is the only known representation of the abbey interior it its ‘Presbyterian’ condition. For the principal sequence of drawing made at Melrose on the 1797 tour, see the Tweed and Lakes sketchbook (Tate D01019, D40551, D01020; Turner Bequest XXXV 16, 17, 18).
There are colour trials on the verso (D40249).
Personal communication.
Technical notes:
There is a blue paint smear or trial at the bottom right corner.

Andrew Wilton
March 2013

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