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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Edinburgh Castle from the Esplanade 1818

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 51 Verso:
Edinburgh Castle from the Esplanade 1818
Turner Bequest CLXV 67
Pencil on white laid paper, 99 x 159 mm
Inscribed in red ink by John Ruskin ’69’ bottom left descending vertically
Blindstamped with the Turner Bequest Monogram lower centre
Stamped in black ‘CLXV 67’ bottom left descending vertically
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
This view of Edinburgh Castle was made from the Esplanade (or parade ground) looking forward to the Gate House and up to the castle. The most prominent feature is the imposing curved Half Moon Battery with its cannon embrasures clearly visible. Above the Battery to the left is the side of the Royal Palace, the architecture of which Turner has paid particular attention to, drawing its corner turrets and crenulations, and just fitting the central clock tower onto the top of the page. It was in a strong room of the Royal Palace in 1818 that Walter Scott found the Scottish Regalia, hidden since the Act of Union, 1707. The first number of the Provincial Antiquities was illustrated with an engraving by E. Goodall of A. Geddes’s painting of the ‘Regalia of Scotland’: ‘the first actual representation of those interesting relics of ancient monarchy’.1
Turner may have referred to this sketch when he made his watercolour of Edinburgh from Calton Hill, circa 1819 (watercolour, National Gallery of Scotland),2 for the fourth number of the Provincial Antiquities. Although the viewpoint differs, this sketch contains more architectural details than the sketch from Calton Hill (Scotch Antiquities Tate D13651, D13652; Turner Bequest CLXVII 39a, 40) on which the watercolour was more directly based.

Thomas Ardill
November 2007

Sir Walter Scott, ‘Regalia of Scotland’, 1818, Provincial Antiquities and Picturesque Scenery of Scotland with Descriptive Illustrations by Sir Walter Scott, Bart., Vol.I, London and Edinburgh, 1826, p.[1].
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.426 no.1062.

How to cite

Thomas Ardill, ‘Edinburgh Castle from the Esplanade 1818 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, November 2007, 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-edinburgh-castle-from-the-esplanade-r1131956, accessed 18 April 2021.