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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner The Recently Launched Royal Barge with the 'Royal George' 1822

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 5 Verso:
The Recently Launched Royal Barge with the ‘Royal George’ 1822
Turner Bequest CC 5a
Pencil on white wove paper, 114 x 187 mm
Inscribed in pencil by Turner [indecipherable] top, ‘Blue Boat’ bottom
Blindstamped with the Turner Bequest stamp bottom left
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Gerald Finley has identified this sketch as showing George IV’s royal barge alongside the Royal George in Leith Roads on 15 August 1822.1 The barge is in the centre of the image with a flag flying from its stern and a few figures standing on board. The Royal George is at the left of the picture, represented with just a few lines, and Finley notes the shapes to the upper left of the barge which he identifies as the landing crane and had just been used to lower the barge into the water. Scribbled shapes around the Royal George represent people preparing for the barge to be rowed to Leith Harbour. There are several other boats in the picture including a ‘Blue Boat’, probably the one sailing away from us, the stern of a medium-sized vessel at the very left of the picture and, although the boat itself is not shown, Turner has included three or four figures in a boat that sits broadside on to the picture plane just below eye level.
At the right of the picture a few lines may represent the hull of a large frigate, as in Turner’s unfinished oil, The King’s Departure from the ‘Royal George’ in the Royal Barge, circa 1823 (Tate N02880).2
A sketch at the top of the page consisting of just a few lines and a largely undecipherable inscription probably records the ornamentation on the royal barge as it resembles similar sketches on folio 6 (D17518).
The subject of ‘The King’s departure from the Royal George in the royal barge’ was the second composition in Turner’s proposed Royal Progress cycle (see Tate D40979; Turner Bequest CCI 43a), and was based on folio 1 of the King at Edinburgh sketchbook (Tate D17672; Turner Bequest CCI 1), which formed the basis of the painting.3 Other sketches depicting the royal barge are folios 6, 66 verso, 72 and 73 verso (D17518, D17622, D17633, D17636), and perhaps also folios 52 and 75 (D17595, D17638).
Although the royal squadron arrived in Leith Roads on 14 August the decision was taken not to land that day due to the poor weather. For a full account of the event see John Prebble, The King’s Jaunt: George IV in Scotland, August 1822 ‘One and twenty daft days’, Edinburgh 1988, pp.237–47; see also folio 8 verso (Tate D17523; Turner Bequest CC 8a)
Butlin and Joll 1984, p.154 no.248b.
Finley 1981, p.28.
Technical notes:
They are two small holes at the bottom left of the page.

Thomas Ardill
August 2008

How to cite

Thomas Ardill, ‘The Recently Launched Royal Barge with the ‘Royal George’ 1822 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, August 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-the-recently-launched-royal-barge-with-the-royal-george-r1132858, accessed 30 May 2024.