Joseph Mallord William Turner

Ship of the Line


View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 112 x 190 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXCIX 44

Catalogue entry

Made with the sketchbook inverted according to its foliation, the drawings on this sheet all display maritime vessels, the most prominent of which was identified by Finberg as a ship of the line.1 The sketch in question occupies the right side of the page, and displays a loose but confident command of the boat’s architecture. The belly of the hull swells evocatively, supported by an undulating grid which roughly marks the division of the ship into a trio of decks.
At top left, vessels are displayed within the context of a placid waterway. In light of the topographic focus of the sketchbook, presumably Turner observed these ships on the River Medway in Kent. A large ship of the line dominates the foreground, likely the same example illustrated in the larger drawing on the sheet. Here, Turner clearly marks three rows of gun ports across the visible side of the hull. In the distance, at left, additional, smaller, craft are evident.

Maud Whatley
January 2016

Finberg 1909, I, p.608.

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