View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms
This is one of two large unfinished studies in this section focused on a dead pheasant and woodcock (see also the entry for Tate D25481; Turner Bequest CCLXIII 358). Both studies seem to be purposeful still-life compositions as opposed to works functioning purely as natural history studies: while the other study shows the birds hanging against a gilt picture frame or mirror, this study – which is compositionally less finished – seems to show them arranged on the edge of a flat surface. Anne Lyles suggested that the studies may relate to a still-life commission from Turner’s friend and patron Walter Fawkes that was never completed, noting Fawkes’s ownership of Dutch and Flemish still life and animal paintings as possible evidence for her premise.1 The large size of the two sheets and the carefully arranged compositions would certainly seem to point towards a function beyond the colour studies themselves.
It is quite possible that this study and its pair were made at Farnley Hall, the Yorkshire home of Walter Fawkes, as suggested by Lyles.2 Turner had made other bird studies at Farnley, for the Ornithological Collection (for information about this project see the introduction to this grouping), and participated in shooting parties at the house; he would certainly have had the opportunity to study dead game birds there.3
Blank; inscribed in pencil ‘[?55]’ bottom right.