Catalogue entry

54. [N00476] The Shipwreck Exh. 1805

THE TATE GALLERY, LONDON (476)
Canvas, 67 1/8 × 95 1/8 (170·5 × 241·5)

Coll. Bought 1806 by Sir John Leicester, Bt; exchanged 1807 for Fall of the Rhine at Schaffhausen (No. 61); Turner Bequest 1856 (54, ‘Shipwreck’ 8'0" × 5'8 1/2"); transferred to the Tate Gallery 1910.

Exh. Turner's gallery 1805; Tate Gallery 1931 (21); Tate Gallery 1959 (344, repr. pl. 47); R.A. 1974–5 (82).

Engr. By Charles Turner in mezzotint in 1806, published 1 January 1807 (Rawlinson ii 1913, pp. 362–3 no. 751; repr. Wilton 1980, pl. 56); by T. Fielding in aquatint 1825.

Lit. Ruskin 1857 (1903–12, xiii, pp. 107–13); Burnet 1852, p. 101 as ‘Fishing-Boats saving the Crew of a Wreck’, engr. as frontis.; Cunningham 1852, p. 13; Thornbury 1862, i, pp. 266–7, 410; 1877, pp. 193–4, 423–4; Hamerton 1879, p. 167; Monkhouse 1879, p. 50; Armstrong 1902, pp. 52–3, 231; Finberg 1910, pp. 49–51; Rawlinson ii 1913, p. 363; Whitley 1928, p. 106; Davies 1946, p. 186; Finberg 1961, pp. 116–19, 124–5, 134, 171, 467 no. 94, pl. 9; Hall 1962, pp. 93, 120; Kitson 1964, p. 18, repr. in colour p. 25; Rothenstein and Butlin 1964, p. 19, pl. 23; Lindsay 1966, pp. 90–91; Brill 1969, pp. 11–12, repr.; Gage 1969, pp. 40, 89; Reynolds 1969, pp. 60–62, 68, 75–6, pl. 42; Watson 1971, pp. 115–16, pl. 38; Adele M. Holcomb, ‘John Sell Cotman's Dismasted Brig and the Motif of the Drifting Boat’, Studies in Romanticism xiv 1975, pp. 34, 36–7, pl. 5; Gage 1980, pp. 25–6, 33; Wilton 1980, p. 46.

Purchased by Sir John Leicester Bt, for £315; the receipt is dated 31 January 1806. A note in Turner's hand of 9 February (?) 1807 at Tabley House records an agreement to take it back in exchange for The Falls of the Rhine at Schaffhausen (No. 61, q.v.): ‘The picture of the fall of the Rhine—to be Sir John Leicesters in Exchange for the Storm for 50 Guineas’. This was endorsed by Sir John Leicester, ‘Pd. Febr. 9[?] 1807 Mr. Turner 50 Gs. & Storm in exchange for ye Rhine’.

A possible stimulus to Turner's choice of subject was the highly successful republication in 1804, with illustrations by Nicholas Pocock, of William Falconer's poem The Shipwreck, first published in 1762. Cotman made a watercolour copy of the foremost boat, now in a private collection (repr. Holcomb loc. cit., pl. 6).

This picture was priced at £400 in a note, probably of c. 1810, in Turner's ‘Finance’ sketchbook (CXXII–36; for the date see Nos. 53 and 56, [N00474]).

There are drawings for the composition in the ‘Calais Pier’ sketchbook (LXXXI–2, 6, 132–3, 136–7, 140–41) and slighter sketches, probably from actual wrecks, in the ‘Shipwreck No. 1’ sketchbook (LXXXVII–11, 16, repr. Kitson 1964, p. 41 and Reynolds 1969, pl. 41 respectively, as well as other sketches related in more general terms). This was the first of Turner's oil paintings to be engraved. The prospectus makes it clear that the picture could be seen in Turner's gallery ‘until July 1, 1805’.

A small copy, 16 1/2 × 20 1/2 in., attributed to Eugene Isabey, was sold at Christie's, New York, on 24 January 1980 (17, repr.).


Published in:
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984