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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Linlithgow Palace c.1821

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Linlithgow Palace c.1821
Turner Bequest CCLXIII 194
Pencil and watercolour on white wove paper, 253 x 371 mm
Watermark ‘J Whatman | Turkey Mill | 1820’
Blind-stamped with Turner Bequest monogram towards bottom right
Inscribed in red ink ‘194’ bottom right (faded)
Stamped in black ‘CCLXIII – 194’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
This relatively developed ‘colour beginning’ is a study for the watercolour Linlithgow Palace (Manchester Art Gallery),1 unusually fully signed and dated ‘JMW Turner RA Sept 14 1821’ and showing the ruined medieval palace from the north-east beside Linlithgow Loch, fifteen miles west of Edinburgh, with the imposing crown spire of St Michael’s Parish Church beyond to its left. It was engraved in 1822 (Tate impressions: T04498, T06065) for Walter Scott’s Provincial Antiquities of Scotland (see the Introduction to this section) and, as discussed by Thomas Ardill in his catalogue entries, was based on some of the many pencil drawings around the site in the 1818 Scotch Antiquities sketchbook, particularly Tate D13679, D13680 (Turner Bequest CLXVII 53, 53a) and a double-page sketch in the Edinburgh 1818 sketchbook (Tate D13514–D13515; CLXVI 33a–34).2
Finberg tentatively suggested ‘Kirkstall, from the river (?)’3 as the subject, presumably recalled the 1824 Rivers of England watercolour (Tate D18146; Turner Bequest CCVIII M),4 with its hills, ruins, water, trees and cows in a fundamentally similar arrangement as here,5 but the direct relationship with the Linlithgow subject is indisputable. Despite the closeness of this work to the finished watercolour, including the two trees framing the view on the right and a variation on the variegated foreground group of cows, it was not until 1997 that Eric Shanes first published the connection.6 He suggested that given Turner’s ‘customary speed of production ... the present work might easily have been created on the same day’7 as the 14 September watercolour, and noted that the fall of the light from the right in both cases indicates an evening scene.
Katrina Thomson observes how the present work ‘establishes the peaceful, golden atmosphere ... in which the palace and its landscape are suffused by the gentle radiance of a dipping sun.’8 Another watercolour study, Tate D25325 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 203), shows Turner contemplating a completely different treatment of the subject.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.426 no.1067, as untraced.
See also ibid., and Shanes 1997, p.63.
Finberg 1909, II, p.829.
Wilton 1979, p.385 no.741, reproduced.
See Spender 1980, p.140.
See Shanes 1997, pp.28, 63, 101.
Ibid., p.63.
Thomson 1999, p.88.
Technical notes:
The blue of the sky remains particularly fresh, and has a slightly speckled appearance where it has remained on the sized surface of the sheet; it has pooled a little there and in the outlines of the Whatman watermark towards the top left.
Blank; inscribed by ?John Ruskin in pencil ‘AB 144 P’ bottom right; inscribed in pencil ‘33’ right of centre, ascending vertically; inscribed in pencil ‘CCLXIII | 194’ bottom right; stamped in black with Turner Bequest monogram over ‘CCLXIII – 194’ bottom left; inscribed in pencil ‘D.25316’ bottom left.

Matthew Imms
July 2016

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘Linlithgow Palace c.1821 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, July 2016, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, Tate Research Publication, February 2017, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/joseph-mallord-william-turner-linlithgow-palace-r1184337, accessed 29 July 2021.