Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Roof of Fingal’s Cave


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 116 × 186 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXXIII 22 a

Catalogue entry

Depictions in this book of Fingal’s Cave on the island of Staffa (see folio 22; D26784) suggest that the present sketch is also of the cave or of a nearby part of the island. David Wallace-Hadrill and Janet Carolan suggest in an unpublished article that the sketch shows the cave’s roof from the outside, although, in an appended checklist, they describe it as the foot of Fingal’s Cave.1 They probably mean that this is a view looking up from the foot of the cave to the roof. The jagged crack at the centre of the sketch must therefore be the opening to the cave, and the marks beneath could be interpreted as two figures standing at the entrance. The absence of vertical lines representing the basalt columns for which the cave is famous is conspicuous. This is because we are looking above the columns to a separate layer of basalt rock which does not have the same crystalline structure.
For a full list of Turner’s sketches of the Isle of Staffa and Fingal’s Cave, see folio 40 (D26817).

Thomas Ardill
March 2010

David Wallace-Hadrill and Janet Carolan, ‘Turner on Mull and Staffa’, [circa 1991], Tate catalogue files, [folios 7, 18].

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