Joseph Mallord William Turner

An Old Manor-House, 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: 260 × 218 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXXX 201

Catalogue entry

The vignette, An Old Manor-House was published in the 1834 edition of Rogers’s Poems, as the head-piece to a poem entitled ‘Human Life’.1 The illustration was engraved by William Miller.2 The poem begins with the birth of an heir to the imaginary manor, Llewellyn Hall:
The lark has sung his carol in the sky;
The bees have hummed their noon-tide lullaby.
Still in the vale the village-bells ring round,
Still in Llewellyn-hall the jests resound:
For now the caudle-cup is circling there,
Now, glad at heart, the gossips breathe their prayer,
And, crowding, stop the cradle to admire
The babe, the sleeping image of his sire.
(Poems, pp.63–4)
The vignette shows the eponymous manor house from the front, framed by tall trees and a grand entrance. Ruskin suggested that Turner designed the building after a drawing recorded in the Smaller Fonthill sketchbook of 1799–1802 (see Tate D02241; Turner Bequest XLVIII 6).3 However, it seems more likely that the house is simply an invention of the artist’s imagination. Jan Piggott has observed it also bears a strong resemblance to the house in another vignette illustration, Summer Eve – The Rainbow circa 1835 (National Gallery of Scotland) which Turner designed for The Poetical Works of Thomas Campbell (1837).4 It may be that the artist intended the structure in the later Campbell vignette as an allusion to the one seen here.5 Turner produced one study for the vignette (see Tate D27532; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 15). Jan Piggott has noted the resemblance of the Tudor style house in the study to East Barsham Manor, Norfolk.6
Turner’s meticulous attention to detail can be seen in the touched proofs of the engraved version of the design. On one such print (Yale Center for British Art),7 he instructed the engraver, William Miller to soften the sky and to add two steps beneath the doorway, whilst on another (University College London) he wrote: ‘This pediment too dark and nearest the 3 to look rich of ornament the marking of this Wing all too strong more like the right Wing the centre [?to] kept light’.8
Samuel Rogers, Poems, London 1834, p.63.
W.G. Rawlinson, The Engraved Work of J.M.W. Turner, R.A., vol.II, London 1913, no.380. There are two impressions in Tate’s collection (T05115 and T06163).
Noted by Piggott 1993, p.83.
Wilton 1979, no.1271.
Piggott 1993, p.84.
Quoted in Piggott 1993, p.84.

Meredith Gamer
August 2006

Read full Catalogue entry

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