Joseph Mallord William Turner

Vessels Firing Salutes


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 64

Catalogue entry

Finberg called this drawing, made with the sketchbook inverted, ‘Vessels Firing Salutes’, and the puffs of smoke can be seen clearly moving off to the left of the vessels on the top and bottom sketches. This records George IV’s disembarking from the Royal George on 15 August when ‘A few minutes before twelve o’clock, a gun from one of the squadron announced that the king had entered his barge.’ This was followed by cannon salute from the rest of the squadron and cheers from the multitude waiting on the Leith shore.1 The King’s barge may in fact be depicted on the top sketch where there is a line of rowers in a vessel.
This sketch is the first of a series of similarly styled sketches of the royal squadron, all made rather rapidly, but with a confident and solid line utilising shorthand of vertical lines for masts, with perpendicular spars and rows of short parallel horizontal lines representing lines of bunting. This same bunting is prominent in W. Bennett’s engraving after John Christian Schetky of The Royal Squadron in Leith Roads, 1824. The hulls of the boats are largely neglected other than to indicate whether a boat is seen from the front, back or side, or to show features of interest such as the bow of the second vessel from the right on the top sketch.
Sketches drawn in this style include folios 64 verso, 65, 66, 67, 67 verso, 68, 69, 70, 71, 73, 73 verso, 75 and 76 (D17619, D17620, D17621, D17622, D17623, D17624, D17625, D17626, D17627, D17628, D17629, D17630, D17631, D17632, D17633, D17634, D17635, D17636, D17637, D17638 D17639, D17640).

Thomas Ardill
August 2008

Robert Mudie, An Historical Account of His Majesty’s Visit to Scotland, Edinburgh 1822, p.98.

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