Joseph Mallord William Turner

A Distant Tower, Possibly of Warwick Castle or Pembroke Castle, or a Study for ‘Boccaccio Relating the Tate of the Birdcage’


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Prints and Drawings Room

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Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Watercolour on paper
Support: 346 × 451 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXIII 12

Catalogue entry

On the grounds of its size and colour scheme, Eric Shanes has very tentatively suggested this as a study for the watercolour Warwick Castle, Warwickshire of about 1830 (Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester),1 engraved in 1832 for the Picturesque Views in England and Wales (Tate impressions: T04594, T04595), or for the watercolour Pembroke Castle, Wales of about 1829 (Holburne Museum, Bath),2 engraved in 1831 for England and Wales (Tate impressions: T04579, T04580, T06094).3 He also proposes a link4 to the painting Boccaccio Relating the Tate of the Birdcage, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1828 (Tate N00507);5 this features a glowing white tower in the distance, based on John Nash’s East Cowes Castle which Turner had visited on the Isle of Wight (compare for example the 1827 blue paper study, Tate D20844; Turner Bequest CCXXVII a 41).
An inconclusive case might be made for any of these subjects, but this elemental image of a tower, contrived by the simple means of leaving the bare white paper reserved against a dark sky, may not necessarily have been made with reference to a specific subject, and any resemblance to Warwick, Pembroke or East Cowes may simply be fortuitous.
See also the introductions to the present subsection of tentatively identified but unrealised subjects and the overall England and Wales ‘colour beginnings’ grouping to which this work has been assigned.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.398 no.841, reproduced.
Ibid., p.397 no.832, reproduced.
Shanes 1997, p.30; see also pp.95, 104.
Ibid., pp.30, 100, 104.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.151–2 no.244, pl.245 (colour).
Blank (not examined out of frame).

Matthew Imms
March 2013

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