J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Caerlaverock Castle 1831

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 49 Verso:
Caerlaverock Castle 1831
Turner Bequest CCLXVI 49a
Pencil on white wove paper, 114 x 187 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner either visited Caerlaverock Castle on his way to Dumfries as is suggested by the order of sketches, or more likely he used Dumfries as a temporary base, making excursions from there to New Abbey (folios 45 verso–49; D25850–D25857) and Caerlaverock.
Caerlaverock Castle was first proposed as an illustration to the Minstrelsy volume of Sir Walter Scott’s Poetical Works by his publisher Robert Cadell on 12 July 1831. However, by 1 August Scott had gone off the idea and described Caerlaverock and the nearby Sweatheart Abbey as ‘Stuffd in without propriety’.1 However, two days after Turner arrived at Abbotsford a new list was drawn up, this time including Caerlaverock as the frontispiece illustration to volume 2 of the Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border. It seems that Scott came round to the subject having seen what Turner could do with it. Caerlaverock remained in volume 2 in the 17 September list, though it eventually found its way into volume 4 as the frontispiece: Caerlaverock Castle circa 1832 (watercolour, Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museums).2
Caerlaverock Castle is associated with Scott’s 1815 novel, Guy Mannering. In the book Ellangowan Castle is based on the seventeenth-century mansion built within the castle by Lord Maxwell.3 Turner later illustrated a scene from the book with Caerlaverock Castle in the background, which was engraved by W. Finden for Fishers Illustrations to the Waverly Novels (1836): Col. Mannering, Hazlewood, and Smugglers circa 1835 (watercolour, private collection);4 the view of the castle was based on the sketch on folio 50 verso (D25859).
Turner’s movements around Caerlaverock Castle can be reconstructed by the order of sketches, and reveal that he took a logical and highly methodical approach. He began at the north-west corner of the triangular structure which gave him a view of the front and one of the sides, therefore including the most characteristic features in a single view. He then circumnavigated the castle clockwise, taking sketches from the north (folio 50), north-east (folio 50 verso; D25860), and south (folios 51–52 and 53; D25861–D25863, D25865). Also on these pages are sketches of the outlines of distant hills seen from the site (folios 49 verso, 50 and 53; D25858, D25859, D25865), a nearby building (folio 53) and a few architectural details of the castle (folio 52 verso).
The view on the present page served as the basis for Turner’s illustrations for the Poetical Works. It shows the grand castle gatehouse with its flanking cylindrical towers, and the west curtain wall leading to Murdoch Tower at the south-west corner (which extends slightly onto folio 50). Instead of a wooden bridge or drawbridge crossing the moat to the gatehouse, the crossing was, in Turner’s time, filled in with a mound of earth, a feature made more obvious in the finished design. At the very left of the page is a small building that is drawn more fully on folio 53. This is now the site of the castle’s visitor centre.
Above the castle is a sketch of the outside of distant hills, continuing on folio 50. These are probably Criffell and nearby hills as seen on folio 53.

Thomas Ardill
September 2009

Walter Scott to Robert Cadell, National Library of Scotland, MS ACC.5131, fol.140v, 1 Aug 1831, in Gerald Finley, Landscapes of Memory: Turner as Illustrator to Scott, London 1980, p.241.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.428 no.1076.
Alan Bold, Scotland: A Literary Guide, London 1988, p.53.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.434 no.1135.

How to cite

Thomas Ardill, ‘Caerlaverock Castle 1831 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, September 2009, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, Tate Research Publication, December 2012, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/joseph-mallord-william-turner-caerlaverock-castle-r1134225, accessed 25 July 2021.