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Dolbadarn Castle, a thirteenth-century tower on a promontory overlooking Llyn Padarn immediately north-west of Snowdon, is a particularly remote and romantic ruin having associations with the heroic age of Welsh history, a period that Turner consciously evoked when he painted his picture of Dolbadern Castle, North Wales, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1800 (Royal Academy, London),1 with lines of verse (apparently composed by himself) about the incarceration here of the Welsh prince Owain Goch. He submitted the picture as his Diploma piece when he was elected a full Academician in 1802. A small oil on panel of the same composition, formerly in the collection of Turner’s friend and patron in later years, H.A.J. Munro of Novar, has recently been rediscovered and is in the National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth.2 However, these share an upright composition not directly derived from this page of the Hereford Court book.
A small watercolour (now much faded) based on this study was in the collection of Sir Watkin Williams Wynn, and a colour study possibly made as part of his preparation for that work is Tate D04166 (Turner Bequest LXX O). It is likely that he executed others, since the back of the sheet is covered with the names of patrons who apparently wished for versions of it. However, no other watercolours are traced. Another drawing of Dolbadarn is the North Wales sketchbook (Tate D01388; Turner Bequest XXXIX 33) and he was to return to the site the following year; see the Dolbadarn sketchbook (Tate; Turner Bequest XLVI).
Wm Blake immedly’, ‘Mr John Trower, | Clapton’, ‘No 2 Tanfield Court | Temple’, ‘11 [altered from ‘10’] Guineas’, ‘Mr R [or ‘N’?] Power Dublin | or No 18 Old-Bond St’; stamped in brown ink with Turner Bequest monogram
The number of names noted by Turner on the back of this sheet indicates the popularity of Dolbadarn Castle as a subject. William Blake of Newhouse was a pupil of Turner; see also folio 81 verso (D01304; Turner Bequest XXXVIII 50a).