Joseph Mallord William Turner

St Johns-in-the-Vale, Cumbria


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 CCLXVI 30

Catalogue entry

This page contains sketches of subjects considered to illustrate volume 11 of Sir Walter Scott’s Poetical Works, The Bridal of Triermain (see folio 26 verso; D25812 for further information). Two of the sketches, at the top left and the bottom right, are of ‘St Johns-in-the-vale’, a valley on the way to Penrith from Keswick. Preliminary lists for the subjects to be illustrated included ‘Castle Rock of St John’, which refer to a crag called ‘Castle Rock’ at the head of Thirlmere reservoir (which did not then exist) in St Johns-in-the-Vale. Both sketches may have been taken from just north of Legburthwaite, and look south with Helvellyn Fell on the left and Castle Rock at the centre (more prominent at the centre of the top left sketch) with Great How at the right. There is another sketch of St Johns-in-the-Vale in the Rokeby and Appleby sketchbook (D25580; Turner Bequest CCLXIV 29a).
At the top right of the page is a sketch of a site close to another subject considered for the Bridal of Triermain. This is the henge of King Arthur’s Round Table (see folio 28 verso; D25816), just 200 metres or so from Mayburgh Henge, which was eventually illustrated as the vignette to the volume (see folio 26 verso; D25812). The preliminary list referred to the site as ‘Penrith Table’ leaving a question over which Henge was to be illustrated,1 and it is possible that Turner was not himself certain at this stage, although his Mayburgh studies are certainly more interesting and involved than the three stone table sketches. This view looks north with Beacon Hill in the distance and Eamont Bridge at the right.
There is another sketch of the henge on folio 29 verso which continues at the bottom left of the present page. It is not clear to what the numbers ‘12’, ‘15’ and ‘64’ inscribed in the centre of the page refer, although Turner did include measurements on folios 28 verso and 29 verso.

Thomas Ardill
September 2009

Gerald Finley, Landscapes of Memory: Turner as Illustrator to Scott, London 1980, p.243.

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