The subject, a large town with towers and spires on a hillside, is unidentified, but may be Italian; see the Introduction to this section for further brief discussion and dating.
The surface is somewhat rubbed. There is a vertical crease near the centre, and a diagonal one at the top right, both of which are more evident from the back. Finberg describes the media as ‘Pencil and Chinese white’1 (a form of gouache), presumably for highlights within the composition, but the latter is no longer readily evident.
This drawing was made on one eighth of an Imperial-format sheet (overall approximately 559 x 762 mm; 22 x 30 inches) of ‘medium-weight pale grey-green wove’ paper, made by Thomas Smith and Henry Allnutt of Great Ivy Mill, Maidstone, Kent.2 Paper conservator Peter Bower has identified all but a handful of the constituents of three such sheets, each with the watermark ‘Smith & Allnutt | 1827’, which were carefully torn up by Turner for sketching, mostly into sixteenths.3 They are ‘the only examples of his working on coloured papers from this maker’, although he had previously used their white wove papers.4
These torn-up sheets all fall within an extensive grouping dated in Finberg’s 1909 Inventory to about 1830–41, comprising drawings of similar format and technique:
Miscellaneous: Black and White. | (a) Grey Paper. | A number of sketches of mountain scenery, mostly unidentified. Among them are probably German subjects, in the neighbourhood of the Rhine and Danube, scenes in the Austrian Alps and North Italy, as well as scenes in Switzerland and elsewhere. | The drawings are grouped according to the paper they are made on.5
Presumably on the advice of Tate curators, Bower dates the use of one of these virtually reconstructed sheets to 1840, when Turner travelled to Venice via Germany, without further elaboration or discussion of the individual subjects;6 by implication the others were used around that time. Although it seems likely that these torn-up sheets were used within a short period at a relatively late stage of Turner’s career and perhaps kept together in bundles at least initially, the subjects, dating and sequence of use after their 1827 manufacture, and hence the precise relationships between these and other sheets in Finberg’s portmanteau ‘Grey Paper’ section among which they are widely scattered, remain to be confirmed.
Finberg 1909, I, p.1088.
Bower 1999, p.109.
See ibid. and p.110 note 1 for the individual Turner Bequest numbers of the identified works; as a result of Bower’s wider survey of Turner’s papers, at the time of writing numerous small batches of Turner Bequest works on grey paper are kept together in annotated folders, indicating that they have been identified as systematically torn from specific large sheets.
Ibid., p.109; see p.110 note 4 for further details.
Finberg 1909, II, p.1084; the overall section, ibid., pp.1064–96, comprises Turner Bequest CCCXLI 1–445.
Bower 1999, p.109 no.62, reproduced, as ‘Reassembled sheet’.