Joseph Mallord William Turner

Sketches of Holyrood Palace and Holyrood Abbey, Edinburgh


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 111 × 181 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXVIII 3 a

Catalogue entry

These studies of Holyrood Palace and Abbey are likely to have been made on 1 October 1834, when Robert Cadell recorded in his diary that he had accompanied Turner to various sites in Edinburgh including Arthur’s Seat.1 The publisher left the artist at the hill and it was probably at this point that the latter took the opportunity to sketch the palace and abbey. Cadell may have been keen that Turner sketched Holyrood for a potential illustration to the novel Waverley in his proposed new edition of Sir Walter Scott’s Waverley Novels.2
The largest sketch, drawn across the top half of the page, is of the western façade of Holyrood Palace with part of Holyrood Abbey to the left of the palace. Details of the windows on the western end of the abbey are sketched below. At the bottom right of the page is a sketch of the entrance to the courtyard with a crowned cupola labelled ‘gate’. This entrance can be seen at the centre of the western façade in the sketch above. A sketch on folio 4 (D26101) depicts the eastern end of Holyrood Abbey.
There are light brown stains across the right of this page.

Thomas Ardill
January 2011

Robert Cadell, Diary 1834, Wednesday 1 October 1834, National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh MS 21024, folio 42.
Cadell chose a view of Holyrood Palace to illustrate Waverley for his ‘Abbotsford edition’ of the novels, although, in the event, Turner was not the illustrator. Waverley Novels [Abbotsford edition], vol.I, Edinburgh 1842, facing p.221 William Miller after Clarkson Stanfield, ‘Holyrood from the Calton-hill’, engraving.

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