View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms
Made with the page turned horizontally, this is one of a sequence of studies in blue wash in this book; see also folios 42 verso, 44 verso and 45 verso (D01860, D01864, D01866; Turner Bequest XLIII 41a, 43a, 44a). They all relate to the large finished watercolour, Caernarvon Castle, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1799 (private collection).1 That shows the castle in a warm sunset glow, but it is clear from this and some others of the group that Turner was also contemplating a moonlight subject. He had already shown two moonlights in oils at the Academy: Fishermen at Sea (Tate T01585)2 in 1796 and Moonlight, a Study at Millbank (Tate N00459)3 in 1797.
The clutter of masts against the silhouette of the castle is typical of Turner’s interests about this time; a similar tangle occurs in Harlech Castle, from Twgwyn Ferry, Summer’s Evening Twilight, also of 1799 (Yale Center for British Art, New Haven).4 Another example of the superimposition of ship’s tackle on the mass of a building is D01866.