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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Frontispiece to Volume Two of The Provincial Antiquities and Picturesque Scenery of Scotland c.1822-5

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Frontispiece to Volume Two of The Provincial Antiquities and Picturesque Scenery of Scotland circa 1822–5
Turner Bequest CLXVIII B
Watercolour and pencil on buff wove paper, 257 x 176 mm
Inscribed in pencil by Turner ‘with [erased] | vol 1 vol 2’ upper centre
Blindstamped with the Turner Bequest stamp at the lower centre below the clasped hands
Inscribed in pencil by A.J. Finberg ‘B’ at the bottom right
Stamped in black ‘CLXVIII B’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Executed in monochrome grey watercolour (or Indian ink) and pencil,1 this is Turner’s design for the title vignette to volume two of the 1826 bound edition of Sir Walter Scott’s Provincial Antiquities and Picturesque Scenery of Scotland (see also Tate D13748; Turner Bequest CLXVIII A). Turner had already produced a series of topographical watercolours to be engraved for the ten parts of the series (see 1818 Scottish Tour Introduction)2 and was commissioned by Scott to produce these vignettes to add interest to the bound edition following his visit to Edinburgh in 1822.
The view is of Edinburgh from Leith Roads with King George IV’s yacht, the Royal George in the foreground and other boats of the royal squadron. Turner has written the title at the top of the page along with the King’s emblem of a star and a white horse, and the royal motto, ‘DIEU ET MON DROIT’, which he has written twice, perhaps changing his mind about the size of the lettering; the motto was not included in the engraving and the title was written differently.3 At the bottom of the page Turner has added an image of two clasped hands, which emerge from smoke in the foreground.
The picture and accompanying emblems relate to the arrival of George IV and the royal squadron to Leith Roads for the royal visit of 1822. The image, which Gerald Finley calls the Mission of Sir Walter Scott,4 shows three barges approaching the royal yacht. One of these carries Sir Walter Scott who, shortly after the arrival of the squadron on 14 August, was rowed out to greet the King and welcome him to Scotland with a gift from the Ladies of Edinburgh. The meeting of Scott and King George is dramatised by the image of their clasped hands below the picture, which also symbolise the union of England and Scotland.5 In Turner’s design the King’s hand is signified by a silk sleeve, while Scott’s sleeve is tartan; they are signified in the engraving by badges of the Order of the Garter and the Thistle.6 The arrival of the King is also signalled in the picture by the smoke from the boats’ cannons, and the smoke from the bonfire on Arthur’s Seat in the distance at the left.7 Turner has symbolised the dawn of the King’s reign with a huge and brilliant sun, superimposed by the King’s emblems of the white horse and star,8 even though it is rising in the south, and the weather that day was so bad that the King had to delay his landing until the following morning.
Turner had travelled to Edinburgh to witness the visit (see George IV’s Visit to Edinburgh 1822 Tour Introduction) and took to the water on the 14th to sketch the royal squadron and Scott’s visit to the King (Tate D17615; Turner Bequest CC 62). A composition based on this sketch and others was developed by Turner after the trip in a tiny thumbnail sketch in the King at Edinburgh sketchbook (composition ‘1’, Tate D40979; Turner Bequest CC 43a). This was the first of nineteen compositions that Finley suggests formed a proposal for a Royal Progress series of paintings.9 Although the series was never completed an oil sketch or unfinished painting of this subject was executed: The Mission of Sir Walter Scott, circa 1823 (Tate N02879).10 The composition of that painting, however, was quite different from the present design, which was more closely based on composition ‘1’.
Turner, however, probably had another source for part of this painting. Just as he had based the vignette to Volume One on a painting by James Skene, despite witnessing the event its depicts himself, he may have referred to an etching by James Miller Huggins of the Royal George, 1824, which bears a striking resemblance to Turner’s depiction of the vessel.11 If Turner did refer to this etching, then he must have painted this design between 1824 and 1826.
At the bottom of the page Turner has signed his initials, ‘JMWT’, in watercolour, and written ‘P’ in pencil. As in the Volume One vignette, this was to tell the engraver where to add his name and the publisher’s credit line in a style that he thought fit.
The majority of the painting is executed in watercolour. Most of the page has been very lightly washed with a watered-down grey watercolour, and other details including most of the writing were painted in different shades of the same grey watercolour of Indian ink wash. Pencil has been used for the word ‘of’ in the title, and for the smaller motto, and the star and horse emblem. The sun’s orb is also outlined in pencil, as are some of its rays. Turner must have had a tiny brush and steady hand to paint the boats and their narrow masts and spars, although he used pencil for the rigging, and perhaps the masts of the smaller vessels. While the clasped hands are painted, pencil is used to help define the fingers. The buildings in Leith Harbour, the Edinburgh skyline with the castle at the right and Calton Hill at the left and the distant Salisbury Crags, are all executed in grey wash with aerial perspective.
A few pencil marks at the bottom right of the page remain from a separate sketch that may have been deleted. An upside-down funnel-shape may have signified a chimney or part of a building. Between the title and the motto are some faint, perhaps partially erased pencil inscriptions, which read ‘with [...] | Vol 1 Vol 2’.
Finberg 1909, I, p.488, CLXVIII A.
Thomson 1999.
W[illiam] G[eorge] Rawlinson, The Engraved Work of J.M.W. Turner, R.A., London 1908 and 1913, p.110 no.194.
Finley 1975, pp.31–2; Finley 1981, p.32.
Piggott 1993, pp.33–4.
The Order to the Thistle is referred to in Turner’s vignette design for Volume One with the emblem of a thistle, and the order’s motto ‘NEMO ME IMPUNE LACESSET’.
Robert Mudie’s, An Historical Account of His Majesty’s Visit to Scotland, Edinburgh 1822, pp.86, 89.
Thomson 1999, p.100.
Finley 1974, pp.31–5; Finley 1981, pp.32–8.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.153–4 no.248a.
I am grateful to Pieter van der Merwe for his advice on Huggins and his suggestion that Turner could have had access to the plate, perhaps purchasing a copy from Huggins’s Leadenhall Street premises. Turner also utilised William John Huggins’s pictures of Whalers in Elhanan Bicknell’s collection as the basis of his own paintings around 1845. Pieter van der Merwe, ‘Huggins, William John (1781–1845), marine painter’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Online ed., accessed 14 August 2008

Thomas Ardill
December 2009

How to cite

Thomas Ardill, ‘Frontispiece to Volume Two of The Provincial Antiquities and Picturesque Scenery of Scotland c.1822–5 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, December 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-frontispiece-to-volume-two-of-the-provincial-antiquities-and-r1140412, accessed 16 April 2024.