Joseph Mallord William Turner

Shipping in Leith Roads


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 114 × 187 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CC 77

Catalogue entry

The dynamism of these two sketches and several other clues suggest that they may show the royal squadron shortly after its arrival in Leith Roads on 14 August 1822. The bottom sketch shows a panoramic view from the north looking towards Leith with the faint outline of Arthur’s Seat at the centre-left and Edinburgh Castle at the very right. A large vessel in the centre of the image is in the process of lowering one of its sails: its yardarm is half descended and the sail has folded in the middle. To the right a three-masted vessel is being attended by a small craft which bobs close to its stern with four or so figures on board. Some boats are at anchor with others under sail.
The sketch at the top of the page shows vessels in the same location, the largest of which may be the same boat as the one below with the attending small craft. At the left is another possible piece of evidence to suggest that the squadron have recently arrived. One of two dark chimneys or funnels has a puff of smoke coming from it. Although the hull is not apparent in this rather light sketch this may well be one of the two steam vessels of the squadron, such as the James Watt which towed the Royal George into Leith Harbour.1 If it is still producing steam then it must have arrived recently, suggesting that this drawing was made on 14 August 1822. If the steamboat is shown then this is one of two drawings of steam vessels in this sketchbook (see also folio 35; D17562); the first two known depictions of a steamboat by Turner.

Thomas Ardill
September 2008

Robert Mudie, An Historical Account of His Majesty’s Visit to Scotland, Edinburgh 1822, p.85.

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