Joseph Mallord William Turner

Head and Shoulders of an Officer; ?Lieutenant Lewis Roatley, Royal Marines


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 184 x 114 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest LXXXIX 20

Catalogue entry

Presumably a participant in the Battle of Trafalgar, the subject cannot be identified for certain. Turner’s picture Battle of Trafalgar, as Seen from the Mizen Starboard Shrouds of the Victory (Tate N00480;1 see Introduction to the sketchbook for the picture and related works) does little to individualise the features of even its main characters, although they are identified in the accompanying key (Tate, D08266; Turner Bequest CXXI K). However, it should be noted that the only men in the picture to wear uniform hats are officers of the Royal Marines, Lieutenant Lewis Roatley (or Roteley) (standing at the back of the group behind the wounded Nelson and number 11 in the key) and Lieutenant Lewis Reeves (standing in the centre foreground and number 18). Turner’s sketch shows a young man, and Roatley was twenty and Reeves nineteen at the time of Trafalgar. As Reeves was badly wounded (though not so dangerously as to be taken off at Gibraltar) and Roatley unscathed, the latter is the likelier candidate. For a sketch possibly of the same man, see folio 28 verso (D05473; Turner Bequest LXXXIX 21a).

David Blayney Brown
March 2006

Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, p.46 no.58 (pl.68).

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