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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Figures at the Provost's Banquet, Edinburgh 1822

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Figures at the Provost’s Banquet, Edinburgh 1822
Turner Bequest CCCXLIV d 443
Pencil on buff wove card, 112 x 74 mm
Blindstamped with the Turner Bequest stamp centre
Inscribed in black ‘CCCXLIV 443’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
This is one of a small group of sketches on pieces of buff coloured card made at the Provost’s Banquet for George IV on 24 August 1822; see George IV’s Visit to Edinburgh 1822 Tour Introduction. Turner attended the banquet, but, probably for the sake of discretion, left his sketchbook behind, using instead of handful of pocket-size cards. Several of these contain sketches of individual figures (see also Tate D34945, D34946; Turner Bequest CCCXLIV d 445, 446), while other contain grouped figures (Tate D34940, D34932; Turner Bequest CCCXLIV d 440 and 442).
The figures on the present card are likely to be significant, and were made in preparation for the painting of George IV at the Provost’s Banquet in the Parliament House, Edinburgh, circa 1822 (Tate N02858).1 The man at the centre-left of the page could even be King George IV, who is likely to be depicted on D34945. His haircut and barrel-chest match the King (or at least flattering portraits of him), and his uniform is familiar from the Provost’s Banquet painting, and from Turner’s painting of George IV at St Giles, Edinburgh, circa 1822 (Tate N02858).2
At the top left, a figure in a dark jacket may be one of the guests who shared the King’s table such as the Duke of Hamilton (Alexander Douglas Hamilton) who had sideburns like this, or Viscount Melville (Robert Dundas) who also resembles this figure. He seems not to be dressed in uniform, however.3
At the top-right of the page there is a quick sketch of two figures facing each other. If this depicts a significant moment at the banquet it could perhaps be George IV bestowing a baronetcy on the Lord Provost, William Arbuthnot.
At the top centre of the page is a sketch of a halberd, as held by the yeomen of the guard.4 There are sketches of the yeomen on Tate D34942 and D34946 (Turner Bequest CCCXLIV d 442, 446).
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, p.153 no.248.
Butlin and Joll 1984, p.153 no.247.
There is a list of important guests in the following contemporary account of the royal visit: Robert Mudie, An Historical Account of His Majesty’s Visit to Scotland, Edinburgh 1822, p.232.
Mudie 1822, p.232.
Inscribed in red ink by John Ruskin ‘CCCXLIV <427>bottom right
Inscribed in pencil by ?A.J. Finberg ‘443’ bottom right
Although the Turner Bequest group number of this work (CCCXLIV) has remained the same, the sheet number has changed. John Ruskin’s original red ink number (427) was crossed out by a subsequent cataloguer, probably A.J. Finberg, and in pencil (443).

Thomas Ardill
February 2011

How to cite

Thomas Ardill, ‘Figures at the Provost’s Banquet, Edinburgh 1822 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, February 2011, 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-figures-at-the-provosts-banquet-edinburgh-r1140406, accessed 26 May 2024.