Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Interior of Smailholm Tower, Scottish Borders


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 113 × 185 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXVII 92

Catalogue entry

The interior of Smailholm tower is recognisable from several features that match the appearance of the tower today despite subsequent rebuilding that has restored the missing floors. The arched stone ceiling on the third floor, the shape of the window arches and position of the windows, and the position of the holes for the floor joists all match the building as it stands today. The remains of the third floor of the tower must have been at least partially accessible to Turner, as this is where the view was taken from. A diagonal line at the bottom left of the sketch suggests a parapet or banister from behind which the artist must have stood on.
There is another sketch of the castle to the left of this sketch. Probably made with the sketchbook inverted, it shows some of the tower’s windows, perhaps on the eastern side. Turner drew another sketch of the tower’s interior on folio 82 (D26076; CCLXVII 84).
For more information on Turner’s visit to and sketches of Smailholm, see folio 82 verso (D26077; CCLXVII 84a).
According to Finberg ‘this page was unnumbered’ when he examined it, suggesting that ‘it is probably now in its wrong place.’1 The red ink inscription of the folio number ‘92’ must therefore have been written by Finberg or by someone after he examined the book, rather than Ruskin, who inscribed page numbers on the other pages of the book in blue ink.

Thomas Ardill
September 2009

Finberg 1909, II, p.860.

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