Joseph Mallord William Turner

Part of the Ceremony of the Laying of the Foundation Stone of the National Monument, Calton Hill


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 187 × 114 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CC 24 a

Catalogue entry

This study, made with the sketchbook turned to the right, is one of a series of sketches recording the unfolding of the ceremony of the laying of the foundation stone of the National Monument (see folio 22 verso; D17540). Although this sketch appears rather vague, with its rapid shorthand notations, several parts can be identified with reference to other sketches that help to yield more information about what it might depict.
At the top a right-angled triangle is identifiable from comparison with the drawing on folio 34 verso (D17561) as the crane that lifted the foundation stone into place. This tells us that the figures at the right are standing along the north edge of the pit dug for the stone, with a few figures at the south. To the left are four figures (probably standing in for more) positioned at the corners of a square with more people lined up behind to the left. The figure at the top left corner is most prominently placed and appears to be the focal point of the group. This is the platform to the west of the pit upon which the ‘Royal commissioners with the Magistrates and committee of contributors ascended’ at the start of the ceremony.
There appears to be a lot of activity surrounding the stone, and considering the sequence of events and sketches this scene may show the Duke of Hamilton’s speech which followed the scattering of corn, oil and wine (folio 23 verso; D17542) and preceded the Duke of Atholl’s address (folio 25 verso; D17546). The inscription, partly hidden by figures at the left, may read ‘Duke H[amilton]’.

Thomas Ardill
October 2008

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