Beyond the loosely indicated pool or river and trees in the foreground, the relatively precise skyline on the right appears to represent a castle silhouetted on a hill. Eric Shanes suggested that this is Barnard Castle in County Durham, stemming from when ‘Turner was playing around with ideas for other possible contributions to the Provincial Antiquities of Scotland’,1 a series of watercolours for Walter Scott’s text, engraved between 1819 and 1826.2 Compare the watercolour of Barnard Castle, Durham (Yale Center for British Art, New Haven),3 a rather different composition engraved in 1827 for Turner’s Picturesque Views in England and Wales (Tate impressions: T04517, T04518). A ‘colour beginning’ possibly representing the castle beyond trees and water (currently untraced)4 has more in common with the present work, although the similarity is probably fortuitous.
Katrina Thomson has suggested that this sheet instead represents a compositional idea of about 1821 for a view for the Provincial Antiquities of ‘Edinburgh from the Water of Leith (a subject which appears frequently in his Scottish sketchbooks)’,5 with the ‘handling and palette’ comparable to that of ‘“colour beginnings” associated with Turner’s 1818 Scottish tour’;6 compare studies for Linlithgow Palace (Tate D25316; Turner Bequest CCLXIII 194), and Crichton Castle in the Scotland and London sketchbook (Tate D13818; Turner Bequest CLXX 4) and at the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven.7
There do not seem to be any pencil sketches directly comparable with the present view, although there are a few made in the wooded vicinity of the classical rotunda of St Bernard’s Well in the Edinburgh, 1818 sketchbook (see in particular Tate D13572; Turner Bequest CLXVI 63a). While the remarks in relation a possible Edinburgh connection are noted here, in the absence of clear landmarks in the composition and given the lack of a watermark the sheet has been left for the present in the context of generic landscapes. Other views in this section with distant towers or castles among hills include Tate D25267, D25321, D25335, D25359 and D25377 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 145, 199, 213, 237, 254).
Shanes 1997, p.28; see also pp.93, 101.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, pp.425–6 nos.1058–1069, reproduced.
Ibid., p.392 no.793, reproduced.
Ibid., p.404 no.890, reproduced.
Thomson 1999, p.37
Ibid., p.47 note 94, acknowledging ‘Ian Warrell for bringing this study to my attention’.
Wilton 1979, p.435 no.1143, reproduced.