Finberg catalogued this drawing as a possible preparatory sketch for Sheerness in the Ports of England series (Tate D18153; Turner Bequest CCVIII T).1 This drawing is part of a group of sketches of boats which were formerly all on one sheet (Tate D17762–D17765; Turner Bequest CCIII E, F, G, H). Finberg lists the others in this group as possible studies for the Rivers of England watercolour The Mouth of the River Humber (Tate D18151; Turner Bequest CCVIII R).2 Shipping became a more concentrated aspect of Turner’s work during the 1820s because of the Rivers and Ports of England series and also as a result of the Marine Views and Southern Coast series.3
The drawing was presumably associated with the Sheerness design because of the conspicuous trapezoid shape of the sail of the lugger seen in the distance between the cutter and the man-of-war in the final drawing. The present sketch features an array of shipping: a collier brig or man-of-war at the left; a lugger; a rather indeterminate and roughly sketched vessel, possibly a hulk, in the distance; and finally a cutter or perhaps a navy longboat with crew seen controlling the rigging.
There is also a colour sketch for Sheerness (Tate D25389; Turner Bequest CCLXIII 266).
The white card backing is stamped in black with Turner Bequest monogram and ‘CCIII–I’at bottom left and inscribed in pencil ‘CCIII I’ at bottom left. Inscribed ‘Oxford 143a –154’ (indicating that the drawing was part of the Oxford Loan collection, see exhibition and literature lists above) and ‘154’ in pencil at bottom right. Also inscribed in pencil ‘154’ at centre.