Joseph Mallord William Turner

Torthorwald Castle, near Dumfries


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 187 × 114 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXVI 56 a

Catalogue entry

Turner’s inscription, which Finberg has read as ‘Torshevel’, in fact refers to Torthorwald, a village and castle on the road between Dumfries and Lochmaben. Sketches of the castle (folios 56 verso–57; D25872–D25873) fall between views of the two towns in this sketchbook.
Torthorwald does not feature in any of the lists of possible subjects to be illustrated for Sir Walter Scott’s Poetical Works,1 so Turner presumably just took the opportunity to draw the ruin as he passed them.
The present page, turned to the right, includes three views of the late fourteenth- or early fifteenth-century stone castle. At the top is a view from across the village to the castle which sits on an earthwork motte, with a hill behind it that is either Tinlaw to the east, or Criffell much further to the south.
The second sketch, in the middle of the page, takes us closer to the castle and motte. In this view we can see through the ruins into the castle’s interior. Turner walked around to the other side of the castle to make his sketch at the bottom of the page, which shows a slightly more intact part of the structure.
Views of the castle continue on folio 57.

Thomas Ardill
September 2009

Gerald Finley, Landscapes of Memory: Turner as Illustrator to Scott, London 1980, pp.240–44 Appendix 3.

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