Joseph Mallord William Turner

Sir Walter Scott’s Barge Departing from the ‘Royal George’


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 68

Catalogue entry

This sketch of shipping at Leith, drawn with the book inverted, may as Gerald Finley suggests, show Walter Scott’s barge departing from the Royal George (see folio 49 verso; D17590). Several parts of the drawing resemble the unfinished oil painting that Finley has also identified as this subject, The Mission of Sir Walter Scott, circa 1823 (Tate N02879).1 Most notable is the small craft (Scott’s barge) at the left of the sketch with a flag from its bow. This bears a resemblance to the dark vessel also with a flag at the lower centre of the oil. The rest of the painting is rather obscure, being unfinished and over-cleaned, but it is possible to tell that, like the sketch, there is a cluster of vessels to its right and the shoreline of Leith and Edinburgh can be made out in the background. While it is obscure in the painting, the background in the sketch can be identified as the outline of Arthur’s Seat and Calton Hill.
Turner made a number of sketches of this view from Leith Roads (see King’s Visit to Edinburgh 1822 sketchbook Introduction).

Thomas Ardill
August 2008

Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.153–4 no.248a.

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