View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms
If this sketch (drawn with the book turned to the right) was made during Turner’s tour of Scotland in 1831, then the only known people that it could represent would be Mrs Charlotte Sophia Lockhart (née Scott) and her sister Miss Anne Scott, whom Turner met while staying with Sir Walter Scott at Abbotsford (Tate D25957; Turner Bequest CCLXVII 16a). However, with their backs to the viewer it is impossible to discern a likeness. It is perhaps unlikely though that this sketch, along with other figure studies in the sketchbook, were made during this tour as they have a different purpose from the topographical sketches and can be more convincingly linked to other projects.
The two ladies sit on a sofa or bench, and with their hands in their laps and lowered gaze they seem to be engaged in some form of activity such as sewing. They are finely dressed, their hair is fashionably arranged and the setting suggests an interior such as a drawing room with what may be panelling or a picture frame at the top right.
The subject is reminiscent of Turner’s studies of figures, especially ladies, in rooms at Petworth and East Cowes Castle. Indeed the subject of this sketch and the pose of the women is similar to a pencil study (Tate D34832; Turner Bequest CCCXLIV d 350) of about this time for Two Women with a letter circa 1830–7 (oil, Tate N05501).1 A sketch of a similar figure in the Seine and Paris sketchbook (Tate D23927; Turner Bequest CCLIV 24) has been regarded as the basis for a painting called Music Party, East Cowes Castle circa 1835 (Tate N03550).2 A gouache on blue paper of Two Ladies Sitting by the Fire (Tate D22740; Turner Bequest CCXLIV 78), made at Petworth in 1827 also shows a similar subject, and the left figure in another blue paper study that Finberg called A bevy of beautiful women (Tate D22763; Turner Bequest CCXLIV 101)3 closely resembles the figure on the left of this sketch. Although there may be no direct link to any of these subjects the present sketch is certainly of the same ilk.