after Joseph Mallord William Turner

Burning of the Houses of Parliament

1835

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

Part of
The Keepsake
Medium
Line engraving on paper
Dimensions
Image: 115 x 90 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Purchased 1986
Reference
T04628

Display caption

On the night of 16 October 1834, the
Houses of Parliament caught fire. Along
with crowds of other astonished spectators, Turner made his way on to the river Thames in a boat to witness the spectacle of the conflagration. This vignette engraving, based on sketches taken that very night, appeared in The Keepsake, a successful 'pocket book' popular for its high quality illustrations and literary offerings. In this plate, the fire has entirely engulfed the Houses of Parliament although Westminster Abbey is still clearly visible beyond. The design was accompanied by verses
recalling the events of the fateful night.

Gallery label, August 2004

Catalogue entry

[from] The Keepsake pub.1828–37 [T04614-T04630; T05105-T05109; complete]

Seventeen line-engravings, one touched with pencil (T04617), in various states, comprising twelve subjects out of a total of seventeen; various papers and sizes; most annotated in pencil with the name of the collector Sir Henry Theobald (See also T05105-T05109)
Purchased (Grant-in-Aid) 1986
Prov: ...; N.W. Lott and H.J. Gerrish Ltd, from whom bt by Tate Gallery (earlier provenance given in individual entries where known)
Lit: Cecilia Powell, Turner in the South, 1987; Eric Shanes, Turner's England: 1810–38, 1990

For more than a decade, after 1826, much of Turner's work for the engravers was concerned with the production of designs for small annuals, a form of ‘pocket’ literature primarily intended for the Christmas market and very much in vogue at this time. The Keepsake was the most successful of the annuals and was an anthology of sentimental prose and poetry, lavishly illustrated with designs by popular artists of the day who, besides Turner, included Thomas Stothard, William Westall and C.R. Leslie. It was launched in 1827 by the engraver and publisher Charles Heath (1785–1848), who had turned his attention at about this time from engraving to promoting and publishing such literature, acting as an ‘art editor’ in selecting the illustrations as well as executing many of the plates himself. The Keepsake was first published in 1828 in conjunction with the publishers Hurst, Chance and Co. of St Paul's and Robert Jennings of Poultry. Heath had recently begun to collaborate with Jennings over another engraving project involving Turner, Picturesque Views in England and Wales (see T04503-T04612). The complicated changes in publishers for both these series are closely interrelated. After severing his connection with Jennings around 1831, Heath continued to supervise the publication of The Keepsake when it was taken over in 1832 by Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown and Green, who continued to act as publishers throughout the period when Turner was contributing to the volumes. Impressions of the plates are found with the names of different publishers than those of the corresponding volumes of The Keepsake (see, for example, T04628). This suggests that print publishers such as Moon, Boys and Graves and Charles Tilt bought up the steel plates from Longman's and, after altering the publication line on the plates, issued impressions separately, perhaps in portfolio, for sale to collectors. The Keepsake was also published in France and Germany, which is indicative of its international appeal: in Paris by Giraldon Bovinet (1830), Rittner and Goupill (1833–6) and Delloy and Co. (1837), in Frankfurt by Charles Jugil (1833), and in Berlin by A. Asher (1834–6). The editorship of The Keepsake was also subject to change: from 1829 to 1835 the editor was Frederick Mansel Reynolds, in 1836 the Hon. Mrs Norton, and in 1837 Lady Emmeline Stuart Wortley. Heath continued to supervise the production of The Keepsake under its different publishers until his death in 1848, although Turner's contribution to the project ceased in 1837; the last volume of The Keepsake appeared as late as 1856. In 1836 Heath reprinted many of the plates in his Gallery of British Engravings; others were reissued in France in the Echo des Feuilletons; a replica of another (‘Havre’, T04626) is recorded by Rawlinson as being published in Germany.

It is possible that Heath and Turner maintained a fairly flexible arrangement as to where the artist's drawings made for engraving would ultimately appear. Some of the illustrations for The Keepsake were possibly originally intended for use in other projects on which Turner was engaged at that time, or were recycled from schemes abandoned by artist or publisher.

Although most of the engravings, particularly in the early volumes, were executed by Heath himself, none of the illustrations after Turner were by him. Except for Henry Griffiths (active 1835–49), whose only plate after Turner appeared in The Keepsake, all the engravers had worked with the artist before. They were Edward Goodall (1795–1870), Robert Wallis (1794–1878), William R. Smith (active 1820s–1850s), James Tibbits Willmore (1800–63), William Miller (1796–1882) and James Baylis Allen (1803–76).

Several of the engravings in this group are stamped with Turner's monogram blind stamp (Lugt 1498). The Keepsake prints from his studio were sold at Christie's from 23 to 25 April 1873. All except two of the plates in this group (T04617, T04624) were once in the collection of the lawyer Sir Henry Theobald (1847–1934). The prints after Turner from his collection were sold at Sotheby's on 12 May 1925 and bear the inscription ‘From the Collection of Sir Henry Theobald K.C. May 12th 1925’ (see Lugt 1375–6).


T04628 Burning of the Houses of Parliament engr. J.T. Willmore, pub.1835

Line-engraving, vignette, approx. 115 × 90 (4 1/2 × 3 9/16) on India paper laid on wove paper 435 × 285 (17 1/8 × 11 1/4); plate-mark 218 × 152 (8 9/16 × 6)
Engraved inscriptions: ‘J.M.W. Turner R.A.’ below image b.l., ‘J.T.Willmore.’ below image b.r., ‘London, Published Octr. 1835, for the Proprietor, by C. Tilt, Fleet Street.’ below image, bottom centre
Exh: Tate Gallery 1989–90 (60, repr.)
Prov: As for T04614
Lit: Rawlinson II 1913, no.332, first published state

Published in The Keepsake, 1836, p.295. Original watercolour: private collection (Wilton 1979, no.1306; Shanes 1990, no.227, repr. in col.). The plate in the published volume is inscribed with the title ‘Destruction of both Houses of Parliament | by Fire Octr 16, 1834’; it was accompanied by a poem by the editor, the Hon. Mrs Norton.

Published in:
Tate Gallery: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions 1986-88, London 1996