This is perhaps an incomplete watercolour, but more probably an elaborate study for one of the ‘Bard’ subjects on which Turner was working around 1799–1800. The theme was presumably ‘Peace’ as in the opposition of a pair of subjects proposed by the present author; see under Tate D04164 (Turner Bequest LXX M). Here the landscape is tranquil and flat, with the mountains relegated to the far distance, a scheme superseded by the idea of placing the Bard on an eminence overlooking Caernarfon and the Isle of Anglesey (Mona).
There is a study of a Bard playing his harp in the contemporary Dolbadarn sketchbook (Tate D01993; Turner Bequest XLVI 1), and a number of studies of dancing and gesticulating figures that seem to relate to a bardic theme occur in the Studies for Pictures sketchbook (Tate D04012–D04016; Turner Bequest LXIX 18–22). The groups of figures in this large study may well derive from Turner’s sketches there. Although this is clearly an ‘idealised’ landscape, the silhouettes of the distant mountains are fairly specific and Gwyn Pritchard has suggested1 that they are in fact part of the Snowdon range seen from the valley of the Nantlle. Turner made several studies in that area on his 1799 tour; see Tate D03649 and D03650 (Turner Bequest LX a H, I).
Personal communication, January 2012.
The sheet is laid down on thin card, the margin of which has received some of the washes.