Joseph Mallord William Turner

A City or Royal Barge, with Details of Flags and a Uniformed Crew Member


View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 188 x 114 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCXII 4

Catalogue entry

With the page turned vertically, Turner has made a detailed study of the elaborate stern of an ornamented barge, probably one of those owned by the City of London and the livery companies and used for formal occasions and pageants on the River Thames, or perhaps a royal vessel. Among the various flags are what is likely to be a Union Flag, and below is a study of one of the uniformed crew.
There are similar sketches in the London Bridge and Portsmouth sketchbook (Tate; Turner Bequest CCVI), probably made on Lord Mayor’s Day in November 1824; see the Introduction to that book for other studies of such barges. Nearby pages here show the familiar scene from the top of Richmond Hill (see the present sketchbook’s Introduction), and the craft could have been observed on the river in the vicinity; see folio 3 verso opposite (D18599) for what could be another Thames pageant, and compare the faint outline of a similar barge on folio 71 verso (D18679). See also folio 72 recto (D18680).

Matthew Imms
December 2014

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