Joseph Mallord William Turner

Diagrams of a Small Shallow-Draughted, Broad-Beamed Boat with Lateen Rig


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Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Support: 117 x 182 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest XCVIII 7 a

Catalogue entry

The boat is drawn in profile, port-side, from the stern and three times as if from above. Wilkinson says it is ‘some Mediterranean craft – probably from a model’. Similar boats are seen on the following folios, 8, 8 verso and 9 (D06191, D06192, D06193). Anthony Bailey believes such drawings are often ‘pipedreams’, combining Turner’s ideas for a boat of his own to sail on the Thames and round the coast with his knowledge of ‘Thames craft, Dutch fishing boats and Mediterranean vessels’.1 As here, they have a low freeboard and lateen rig (a low sail hung from a single yard inclined upwards at an angle from the bows), impractical for the blustery Thames but nevertheless appropriate, as Hill remarks, for sailing through the classical fantasies into which he turned its scenery in his sketchbooks used at Isleworth.2 As Bailey further says, Turner’s drawings have an experimental character, testing the performance of various rigs against weather conditions and adapting them accordingly. Folio 8 (D06191), facing this diagram, shows a similar boat sailing, its helmsman seated on the weather gunwale.
For what look like more practical designs for a gaff-rigged dinghy, suitable for the Thames and presumably more closely related to work on Turner’s own boat since they include costings, see the River and Margate sketchbook, folios 88 verso–89 verso (Tate D06508–D06510; Turner Bequest XCIX 84a–86a).

David Blayney Brown
July 2008

Anthony Bailey, Standing in the Sun: A Life of J.M.W. Turner, London 1997, pp.94, 427 note 13.
Hill 1993, p.64.

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