Joseph Mallord William Turner

Vignette Study; possibly for ‘Lord Ullin’s Daughter’ for Campbell’s ‘Poetical Works’


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

Graphite and watercolour on paper
Support: 241 x 161 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXXX 121

Catalogue entry

Although it is difficult to discern the subject of this loosely painted study, it appears to show a group of running figures on a cliff with a castle in the distance, and a boat on water in the foreground. Jan Piggott has tentatively identified it as a preliminary drawing for Lord Ullin’s Daughter circa 1835 (National Gallery of Scotland), an illustration which Turner produced for Thomas Campbell’s Poetical Works, published in 1837.1 The design was engraved by Robert Wallis to accompany a poem of the same title.2 If this is indeed a preparatory sketch for the subject, Turner made significant alterations to the composition when converting it into his finished design.
The dramatically contrasting palette, dark opaque areas and use of chalk within this work are unusual for Turner’s vignette studies. However, there are some similarities with another preliminary vignette study (see Tate D27639; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 122). The subject of this second study also remains uncertain; however, given the close relationship between these two works, it seems likely that Turner produced them both at around the same time and for the same project. Ruskin grouped both works in a parcel containing preliminary watercolour studies for Thomas Moore’s The Epicurean,3 and Jan Piggott has suggested that the second study may indeed be an illustration for Moore’s tale.4
Jan Piggott, Turner’s Vignettes, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1993, p.96.
W.G. Rawlinson, The Engraved Work of J.M.W. Turner, R.A., vol.II, London 1913, no.622. There is one impression in Tate’s collection (T04774).
National Gallery Library and Archive, ‘parcel 82’. See also Finberg 1909, vol.II, pp. 897–8.
Piggott 1993, p.96.
Inscribed by an unknown hand in pencil ‘AB 82 P | M’ top right, descending right-hand edge

Meredith Gamer
August 2006

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