Joseph Mallord William Turner

Design for the Farnley Hall Series of Historical Vignettes and Fairfaxiana; ‘Bad Advisors, Arbitrary Measures...’


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

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Oil and graphite on paper
Support: 223 x 372 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLIV B

Catalogue entry

This drawing is one of four (including Tate D12101, D12102, D12103; Turner Bequest CLIV C, D, E) on the front and back of a single sheet of paper, folded in half and presently unmounted. In the Inventory Finberg listed each as separate items, and the individual drawings have been separately stamped with a Turner Bequest number and given their own Tate accession numbers. Consequently, they are catalogued separately here. For clarity, the present drawing is the right hand drawing on the recto of the present sheet and D12103 (CLIV E) is the left half. D12101 and D12102 (CLIV C and D) are on the verso.
The four designs are connected with a series of drawings made by Turner for Walter Fawkes at Farnley Hall between about 1815 and 1823. Fawkes could count among his ancestors Charles Fairfax, Governor General of the Parliamentary Army during the Civil War, and as a reforming politician himself had a keen interest in the rise of parliamentary democracy and rule of law in Britain. He collected historical memorabilia, particularly associated with the Civil War, and it would seem that he proposed (or perhaps wrote) a history of the period. Turner produced a series of historical vignettes, frontispieces and illuminations that appear to have been intended to illustrate the work. Seventeen of these remained at Farnley Hall and survive bound as an album of ‘Historical Vignettes and Fairfaxiana’ (private collection),1 but no text survives with the illuminations. A detached frontispiece to the series called At Farnley Hall (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford)2, which is dated 1815, together with an observation of Turner at work on the series made by John Cam Hobhouse on a visit to Farnley Hall in 1823,3 provide a date range for the project.
The present drawing is an unused design for the series and appears to have been intended as a frontispiece to a section dealing with, as inscribed; ‘Bad Advisers | Arbitrary Measures | Forced Loans | The King’s Will | The Law’. The titles are let into a decorated tablet with at the top crossed scrolls inscribed ‘Benevolence’ and ‘Arbitrary Jailing | Imprisonment’ and a pair of scales weighing ‘Liberty’ against ‘Prerogative’. To the right the tablet is supported by a standing man in fifteenth- or sixteenth-century costume,4 and at the top right is a shield bearing a cross with next to it the inscription ‘Lion’.
James Hamilton, Turner’s Britain, exhibition catalogue, Gas Hall, Birmingham 2003, pp.169–72 reproduced in colour, 204–5.
Wilton 1979, p.367 no.582. The title of the watercolour is slightly misleading as the house depicted is not Farnley but rather Menston Hall, a Fawkes property and the seventeenth-century home of Charles Fairfax.
Jon Cam Hobhouse, Recollections, 1910–11 edition (1865), vol.I, part iii, p.28.
Finberg 1909 says Elizabethan, but that is possibly too specific.

David Hill
July 2009

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