Joseph Mallord William Turner

A Yacht off the East Cowes Headland; Cowes Castle; Studies of Sailing Boats


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 74 × 100 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCVII 19 a

Catalogue entry

At the bottom left a yacht is seen off the East Cowes headland; compare the profile in the painting Shipping off East Cowes Headland, of 1827 (Tate N01999).1 In the foreground the small building among trees is Cowes Castle above its castellated barbican overlooking the west side of the entrance to the River Medina. Built by Henry VIII and since much extended and transformed almost out of recognition after is 1855 decommissioning, it serves as the headquarters of the Royal Yacht Squadron.2 The barbican, which features inconspicuously in the right foreground of Turner’s painting focusing on East Cowes Castle, the Seat of J. Nash, Esq.; the Regatta Starting for their Moorings, exhibited in at the Royal Academy in 1828 (Victoria and Albert Museum, London),3 now stands above a pedestrian section of the Esplanade.
Peter De Wint (1784–1849) depicted it from this side in a vignette engraved in 1818 for the Picturesque Views on the Southern Coast of England (Tate impressions: T05318, T05319). There is a detailed drawing of this aspect (Princeton University Art Museum, New Jersey), related to a putative lost Turner watercolour4 engraved in about 1799 (impression: British Museum, London), and a watercolour from the south-east in about 1796 (Tate D00667; Turner Bequest XXVII F), while the building also appears in more detail in the Windsor and Cowes, Isle of Wight sketchbook of 1827 (Tate D20683, D20708; Turner Bequest CCXXVI 53a, 69a). It should not be confused with East Cowes Castle, a country house built in mock-fortified style, for which see under folio 22 recto (D18030). In the present sketchbook, Cowes Castle and its surroundings are seen again on folios 22 recto, 31 recto, 46 recto, 47 recto, 55 verso and 73 recto (D18030, D18048, D18077, D18079, D18096, D18130).
Along the top are fragmentary studies of hulls and the lower parts of sails, perhaps showing the same boat from different angles. The associated inscription is unclear, but may refer to Newport, south up the River Medina from Cowes; compare the inscription on folio 44 verso (D18074). For more on studies in this sketchbook relating to the regatta events at Cowes from late July 1827 onwards, see the sketchbook Introduction.

Matthew Imms
December 2014

Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, p.161 no.267 pl.272 (colour).
See ‘Cowes Castle’, Royal Yacht Squadron, accessed 15 December 2014,
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.150–1 no.243, pl.247 (colour).
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.319 no.176.

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