Joseph Mallord William Turner

A Seated Bard Playing a Harp


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 130 × 79 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest XLVI 1

Catalogue entry

This figure is presumably related to Turner’s plans for two large watercolours on the theme of the Welsh bards, one of which was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1800 under the title Caernarvon Castle, North Wales (Tate D04164; Turner Bequest LXX M).1 The other (Tate D04168; Turner Bequest LXX Q) was never finished, but a number of studies for the foreground figures include the bard and his followers, awaiting their doom as the army of Edward I winds its way through a deep valley in Snowdonia; see also Tate D04165 and D04185; Turner Bequest LXX N, h). Since the bard in the finished watercolour of Caernarvon castle is seating at the left of the composition it is likely that Turner planned to position the bard in its pair on the right, perhaps in this pose.

Andrew Wilton
May 2013

Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.329 no.263, pl.52.

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