Joseph Mallord William Turner

Tombs of Napoleonic Heroes at Père-Lachaise, Paris


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

Graphite on paper
Support: 174 x 117 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLIV 24 a

Catalogue entry

With the sketchbook turned horizontally, Turner filled this page with studies taken at the hillside Père-Lachaise Cemetery some two miles east of central Paris. Particular attention has been paid to the tombs of great military figures from the Napoleonic wars. The sarcophagus and obelisk on the left-hand side of the page commemorate François Joseph Lefebvre, the Duke of Danzig, and General André Massena respectively. Turner transcribed the inscriptions on these monuments onto his drawing. While Lefebvre’s sarcophagus is marked simply with his name, Messina’s tomb is inscribed also with his date of decease and the sites of his greatest military triumphs: Rivoli, Zurich, Gènes, and Essling. The sarcophagus on a tall plinth towards the right-hand side of the page is the tomb of Vice-Admiral Denis Decrès, as identified by Turner with a small note. These three tombs featured in one of Turner’s engraved illustrations for a new edition of Walter Scott’s Life of Napoleon Buonaparte (1834–6); see Tate impression T04744.
Père-Lachaise recurs frequently in the pages of this sketchbook; see folios 18 verso (D23916; Turner Bequest 18a), 20 verso (D23920; Turner Bequest CCLIV 20a), 21 verso (D23922; Turner Bequest 21a), 22 recto (D23923; Turner Bequest CCLIV 22), 23 recto (D23925; Turner Bequest CCLIV 23), 23 verso (D23926; Turner Bequest CCLIV 23a), 26 recto (D23931; Turner Bequest CCLIV 26), 26 verso (D23932; Turner bequest CCLIV 26a), 27 recto (D23933; Turner Bequest CCLIV 27).

John Chu
July 2014

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