Ashestiel, 1831-34

© The Fitzwilliam Museum

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Graphite and watercolour on card
287 x 223 mm
Given by John Ruskin, 1861 no.573

In April 1831, Turner was commissioned by Robert Cadell to produce a number of vignettes and views at 25 guineas each for Cadell’s editions of the Prose and Poetical Works of Sir Walter Scott. In August the same year, he travelled to Scotland especially to collect suitable views and met Scott at Abbotsford. Between 1834 and 1836, sixty-five were engraved; this watercolour was engraved by J. Horsbury for the Poetical Works (1834), which contains twenty-four illustrations.

Scott was at first reluctant to employ Turner, but later relented, presumably due to his publisher’s confidence that Turner’s fame would secure a far larger subscription.

The main image shows Ashestiel, Scott’s summer residence between 1804 and 1811, where he composed Marmion; the two figures at the end of the steeply ascending path are supposed to represent the author and his friend Marriott walking across the moors, discussing poetry. The figures in the margin are, on the left Constance de Beverly, the perjured nun, about to be entombed alive, and, on the right, Lord Marmion dying on Flodden Field.

Ruskin thought this an ‘average work of the middle time’, and claimed to have kept it for his ‘love of Scott’.

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