Joseph Mallord William Turner Head and Shoulders of an Officer; ?Lieutenant Lewis Roatley, Royal Marines 1805

Artwork details

Head and Shoulders of an Officer; ?Lieutenant Lewis Roatley, Royal Marines
From Nelson Sketchbook
Turner Bequest LXXXIX
Date 1805
Medium Graphite on paper
Dimensions Support: 184 x 114 mm
Acquisition Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest LXXXIX 20
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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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