Joseph Mallord William Turner

The London Bridge Foundation Stone Ceremony: The Marquee beside Old London Bridge


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

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Watercolour on paper
Support: 113 x 187 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCXIII 1

Catalogue entry

The view is south-east over the River Thames to the upstream side of Old London Bridge, with a further arch continued to the left a little way across the inside front cover opposite (D18706). The main feature of the drawing is the large marquee erected over the coffer-dam around the site of the southernmost pier of the new London Bridge, for the foundation stone ceremony held on the riverbed on 15 June 1825. Connecting the marquee with the parapet of the existing bridge is the curving shape of a covered walkway, and above fly several large flags and bunting, around which Turner has made colour notes.
In his 1909 Inventory of the Bequest, Finberg tentatively interpreted the shape of the marquee, with its prominent flags, as a ‘state barge’.1 In an unpublished note, he suggested that the occasion was ‘?laying foundation stone of new bridge [?19] June 1825’,2 and a detailed examination of the drawings on adjacent pages and at the other end of the sketchbook appears to bear this out. The event and the other studies are discussed in the Introduction.

Matthew Imms
December 2014

Finberg 1909, II, p.648.
Undated MS note in an interleaved copy of Finberg 1909, Tate Britain Prints and Drawings Room, vol.II, opposite p.648.

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