Turner made four sketches of St Bernard’s Well by the Water of Leith in the north-western suburbs of Edinburgh during this 1818 tour. The present view is from nearby to the north, and other sketches show the view from nearby to the south (folio 38 verso; D13646; CLXVII 36a), from the Corstorphine Hills in the south (Bass Rock and Edinburgh sketchbook; Tate D13325; CLXV 3) and from the north looking towards Edinburgh’s New Town (Edinburgh, 1818 sketchbook; Tate D13572; Turner Bequest CLXVI 63a).
In the present sketch Turner stands on the bank of the river looking towards Alexander Nasmyth’s monument to St Bernard. The well, reputed to produce water with health-giving properties, is celebrated with the little temple which houses a statue of Hygieia, the goddess of health. The classical, Claudian, potential of the scene is realised in the sketch with a tree on the left which frames the scene with its gently curved trunk and full canopy. The picture is also framed at the right by the bank of the river and the arches of a bridge create a feature of interest in the distance.
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