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The subject is unidentified, but appears to relate to various views of buildings between trees on the banks of the Thames dating from Turner’s stay at Isleworth in 1805, such as the watercolour view of Syon House and Kew Palace known as ‘The Swan’s Nest’ (Tate D04163; Turner Bequest LXX L – see also the Liber Studiorum drawing Isleworth, Tate D08163; Vaughan Bequest CXVIII I). A watercolour study of Kew Bridge and Palace in the Hesperides (1) sketchbook (Tate D05833; Vaughan Bequest XCIII 38a) and the related Kew Palace from the Thames, with Kew Bridge Beyond (Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester)1 are closer compositionally to the present study, while the watercolour Landscape with Trees by a River (Manchester Art Gallery)2 develops a similar theme in reverse. Turner would later develop this motif in several of his views along the French rivers, such as Marly-sur-Seine, ?1830–1 (British Museum, London).3 In the absence of specific evidence, the span of the Liber Studiorum’s active publication, 1807–19, is suggested here as a date range for the present work (as it is for various other unpublished designs).
The watercolour washes do not extend to the left-hand edge. Pencil work appears limited to a rough outline of the distant building, which was defined by painting round it with wash without carefully following the drawing. Washes of dark foliage on the trunks in the foreground have bled into the sky; one trunk towards the left was washed in and then washed out again, apparently while wet. The broad washes in the sky are now mottled.
This sheet was recorded by Finberg in 1909 as apparently still being in the sketchbook, but if so it was subsequently removed before the book was badly damaged by immersion in the basement of the Tate Gallery during the Thames flood of January 1928. His number, ‘1’, corresponds with the red ink folio numbers inscribed in the book by Ruskin. The whole sheet was taken from the book, leaving no stub, and then trimmed slightly irregularly along the line of stitching holes at the left-hand edge. Studies made on adjacent pages probably also show or are derived from Thames scenery: see Tate D08085–D08088; Turner Bequest CXV 2–5).1
Forrester 1996, p.24 note 81.