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This sketch and the one next to it were made in preparation for Turner’s first and only royal commission, a huge painting to commemorate the battle of Trafalgar (currently exhibited in Turner and the Masters). In this design, Turner is plotting the relative positions of the boats, with Nelson’s Victory dominating the scene. The composition at this stage was very static. The more dynamic final work was to be criticised by naval officers for its inaccuracy.

February 2010