As a young artist, Turner developed a meticulous style to describe architectural antiquities. In this unfinished work, he has applied the same style to an urban subject. The tall structure that dominates this scene was the water tower at what is now the Embankment, in London.
The crowded jumble of the modern city was a challenging subject for artists. It lacked the more established historical or poetic associations of old buildings, and tended to lead to images that were more descriptive than evocative.