J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours

Joseph Mallord William Turner Description of 'The Battle of Trafalgar, as Seen from the Mizen Starboard Shrouds of the Victory' 1806

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Description of ‘The Battle of Trafalgar, as Seen from the Mizen Starboard Shrouds of the Victory’ 1806
D08267
Inscribed by Turner in ink (see main catalogue text) on wove paper, 187 x 234 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
This description has long been kept with the sketch and key (Tate D08266; Turner Bequest CXXI K) to Turner’s picture The Battle of Trafalgar, as seen from the Mizen Starboard Shrouds of the Victory (Tate, N00480)1 and is today mounted beneath them. Together, they may have been available to visitors to Turner’s Gallery in 1806 when the picture seems to have been shown in an unfinished state. Along with the sketch and key, the description was badly damaged in the 1928 Tate Gallery flood and was thought to be illegible. The transcription published by Upstone and largely followed below was made possible by ultra-violet scanning:
The front of the picture is occupied by the Poop of Victory defended by the Marines with the signal men and Midshipmen who took care of the signals after Lt Pascoe was wounded [in] the left and lower corner seamen endeavour to secure the mizzen mast which after the action fell overboard. In the centre is Lord Nelson with the officers and seamen that attended to him after he was wounded and carried off the Quarter deck. Between the main and Foremast the decks are covered with seamen. The marines on the starboard side were commanded by Capt. Adair who was killed by the riflemen in the mizzen top of the Redoubtable entangled with the Victory’s fore shrouds her Captain is halling down his Colors and some of the crew hailing for quarter over her shattered stern is The Temeraire 98 guns Adl Harvey, ingaged with the Fogieux and part of the French line. The Neptune Capt. Freemantle bearing up to engage the Beaucentaur Adl Villeneuve and St Trinidada (seen thro the smoke) bearing the Spanish Adm flag at the Main over the Bows of the Victory is the Le Intrepide, French 74...
For the main protagonists see notes to D08266. Apart from Victory the ships named here are the the British Temeraire and Neptune, the French Redoutable, Fougueux, Bucentaure and Intrepide and the Spanish Santissima Trinidad. For these, and Turner’s researches for his picture, see the Nelson sketchbook (Tate (Tate D05446–D05490; D40701–D40705; D41427; Turner Bequest LXXXIX). Turner’s larger drawing of the poop and quarterdeck as seen in his picture is Tate D08243; Turner Bequest CXX c.

David Blayney Brown
April 2006

1
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.46–7 no.58 (pl.68)

How to cite

David Blayney Brown, ‘Description of ‘The Battle of Trafalgar, as Seen from the Mizen Starboard Shrouds of the Victory’ 1806 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, April 2006, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, December 2012, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/joseph-mallord-william-turner-description-of-the-battle-of-trafalgar-as-seen-from-the-r1139294, accessed 28 November 2014.