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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Foundation Stone of the National Monument, Calton Hill; and Sketches of the Firth of Forth 1822

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 34 Verso:
Foundation Stone of the National Monument, Calton Hill; and Sketches of the Firth of Forth 1822
Turner Bequest CC 34a
Pencil on white wove paper, 114 x 187 mm
Blindstamped with the Turner Bequest stamp bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Gerald Finley has identified the main drawing on this page as the ‘Crane for installing the foundation stone of the National Monument’ and explains:
Turner represents the moment after the foundation stone was set in place. The crane is shown moving the great covering stone over the foundation stone, whose three rectangular cavities can be seen (they contain sealed bottles of coins, newspapers and inscription plates)1
The ceremony for the laying of the stone was held on 27 August 1822, and Turner witnessed the event from the top of Nelson’s Monument just a few yards to the south on Calton Hill, from where he made a series of rapid sketches recording the progress of the ceremony (see folio 22 verso; D17540). This sketch, however, was clearly made from a lower vantage point, probably near the foot of the Monument, and demonstrates a very different approach to the subject. This precise line drawing carefully depicts the foundation and covering stones as well as the two platforms to the west and east where the officials of the ceremony were seated.2 Turner has paid particular attention to the crane, just as he took an interest in the launching crane of the Royal George on folio 5 verso of this sketchbook (D17517): both complex pieces of machinery that he would find hard to reproduce without a precise sketch. To the right of the stone are a series of triangular shapes. These are probably the artillerymen’s bell-tents which were pitched on the slopes of Calton Hill. The artillerymen were there to maintain the twelve guns that were placed on the hill during George IV’s visit and used to fire salutes at various points including during the laying of the foundation stone.3
At the top right of the page is the continuation from folio 35 (D17562) of a drawing of the view along the Firth of Forth towards Barnbougle Castle. There are two further views along the Forth at the left of this page, both drawn with the sketchbook turned to the right.

Thomas Ardill
October 2008

Finley 1981, p.83.
see Robert Mudie, An Historical Account of His Majesty’s Visit to Scotland, Edinburgh 1822, p.260.
See John Prebble, The King’s Jaunt: George IV in Scotland, August 1822 ‘One and twenty daft days’, Edinburgh 1988, p.204; and Mudie 1822, p.264.

How to cite

Thomas Ardill, ‘Foundation Stone of the National Monument, Calton Hill; and Sketches of the Firth of Forth 1822 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, October 2008, 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-foundation-stone-of-the-national-monument-calton-hill-and-r1132902, accessed 18 January 2022.