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The coastal town of Marazion is seen from the east, with Penzance beyond on the north-west side of Mount’s Bay. The view extends to the south-west beyond St Michael’s Mount to Kemyel Point, which appears in the slight continuation of the composition onto folio 31 verso opposite (D40816; verso of CXXV 30). The viewpoint is on or beside the road from Helston and Falmouth, now known as Turnpike Road at this point, and the Mount can be seen from this angle from the cemetery on the seaward side.
The dramatically sited island is visible from the whole sweep of the bay and the hills inland, and is connected to the mainland by a causeway north-east to Marazion at low tide. It was possibly mentioned in classical literature as a port trading in tin and copper. The twelfth-century priory church was seized later that century and the site first fortified; in the early eighteenth century the harbour had been rebuilt and trade flourished. In 1812, the year after Turner’s visit and with the Napoleonic Wars ongoing, a French privateer was disabled by cannon fire from the Mount. The castle was partly rebuilt and extended, particularly at the south-east corner (on the left here), in 1850, 1875–8 and 1927.1 Some of Turner’s sketches show features which no longer exist or have been remodelled, as well as the bare outcrops below the castle2 which have been softened with the introduction of trees and other garden features.
Eric Shanes has noted that the sketch forms the basis of two loose, atmospheric ‘colour beginnings’ of St Michael’s Mount at sunset (Tate D25187, D25514; Turner Bequest CCLXIII 65, 390).3 There is a similar view, presumably made on the same occasion, in the smaller Devonshire Coast, No.1 sketchbook (Tate D08715; Turner Bequest CXXIII 190a).
The rest of the sketchbook is taken up with a thorough survey of the castle, the Mount and its setting, with several drawings running across two pages: folios 32 verso–33 recto, 33 verso–34 recto, 34 verso–35 recto, 35 verso–36 recto, 37 verso–38 recto, 38 verso–39 recto, 39 verso, 40 verso, 41 recto, 41 verso, 42 verso, 43 verso, 44 recto, 44 verso–45 recto, 46 recto, 46 verso, 47 verso (D08911–D08912, D08913–D08914, D40817–D08915, D08916–D08917, D08919–D08920, D08921–D08922, D08923, D08925, D08926, D08927, D08929, D08931, D08932, D08933–D08934, D08935, D08936, D08937; CXXV 31a–32, 32a–33, [33 verso]–34, 34a–35, 36a–37, 37a–38, 38a, 39a, 40, 40a, 41a, 42a, 43, 43a–44, 45, 45a, 46).
See timeline on ‘History’ page, St Michael’s Mount, accessed 27 January 2009, http://www
.stmichaelsmount; and Nikolaus Pevsner, Cornwall, The Buildings of England, 2nd ed., revised by Enid Radcliffe, Harmondsworth 1970, pp.193–5. .co .uk /history .htm
See 1872 photograph in Reg Watkiss, Early Photographs: The West Cornwall Peninsula, revised ed., Penzance 1978, pl.24.
Shanes 1997, pp.83 and 39 respectively.