Joseph Mallord William Turner

A Village-Fair, for Rogers’s ‘Poems’


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite and watercolour on paper
Support: 270 × 310 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXXX 200

Catalogue entry

The vignette, A Village-Fair, was published in the 1834 edition of Rogers’s Poems, as an illustration to a poem entitled ‘Human Life’.1 The engraver was Edward Goodall.2 The image complements the following lines from Rogers’s poem which Turner marked with a pencil box in the margin of his own copy of the 1827 edition of Poems (see Tate D36330; Turner Bequest CCCLXVI p.93):
A Wake – the booths whitening the village-green,
Where Punch and Scaramouch aloft are seen;
Sign beyond sign in close array unfurled,
Picturing at large the wonders of the world
(Poems, p.84)
Turner’s vignette shows the lively bustle of a large village fair. In the foreground, several performers compete for the attention of the teeming crowd. This is one of a number of vignettes in Poems to show landmarks or quotidian scenes that would have been familiar and appealing to British audiences. As Andrew Wilton has observed, the church with the buttressed steeple and pointed spire resembles that of St James’s church in Louth, Lincolnshire and the scene bears some similarity to Turner’s watercolour, The Horse Fair, Louth circa 1827 (British Museum),3 engraved for the topographical series Picturesque Views in England and Wales.4
The background details of the composition bear some similarity to those in a preliminary sketch for a vignette, supposedly related to An Old Manor-House (see Tate D27532; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 15). In particular, the spire of the church, the line of regularly spaced trees and the double towers of a building half-seen in the distance broadly resemble those of the study.
The artist’s inscribed instructions beneath the work are intended to clarify certain details of the drawing for the engraver. Turner has indicated that he wanted the final print to clearly show the avenues of booths, the advertising signs and the temporary wooden stages with their itinerant performers. There is also a small pencil sketch of the player’s stage in the bottom right corner of the sheet.
Samuel Rogers, Poems, London 1834, p.84.
W. G. Rawlinson, The Engraved Work of J.M.W. Turner, R.A., vol.II, London 1913, no.382. There are two impressions in Tate’s collection (T04675 and T06165).
Wilton 1979, no.809.
Wilton 1975, p.112.

Inscribed by unknown hands in pencil ‘17’ top centre and ’30 | a’ centre and ‘CCLXXX 200’ bottom centre
Stamped in black ‘CCLXXX 200’ lower centre

Meredith Gamer
August 2006

Read full Catalogue entry

You might like

In the shop