Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Royal Squadron at Anchor in Leith Roads; and Studies of the Royal Barge


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 CC 6

Catalogue entry

This sketch shows the royal squadron at Leith Harbour, and, from the sketches at the top of the page and the subject of the page opposite (folio 5 verso; D17517), it appears to be associated with George IV in the royal barge heading towards Leith Harbour. This subject was the second composition in Turner’s proposed ‘Royal Progress’ cycle (see Tate D40979; Turner Bequest CCI 43a),1 and was developed for an unfinished oil painting and the title page vignette for volume 2 of the 1826 edition of the Provincial Antiquities and Picturesque Scenery of Scotland (see folio 5 verso for more information).
The royal barge itself is not distinguishable among the many vessels in the picture, many of which are simply indicated by a vertical line for a mast or a series of dots for the hull. Some of the boats have bunting strewn from their masts, and the inscriptions at the bottom left of the picture refer to the colours of the vessels.
At the top of the page are two sketches of decorations of the royal barge. At the top left are a cushion with a tassel and the inscription ‘Royal cushion’. Beneath this is a sketch of the decorative ‘curtain’ or fringing that adorned the craft. There is a similar detail sketch opposite this page on folio 5 verso. There is a sketch of the royal barge on its way to land at Leith on folio 73 verso (D17636).

Thomas Ardill
August 2008

Finley 1981, p.28.

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