Joseph Mallord William Turner

Blenheim Palace from the Great Court

1830

In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Graphite on paper
Dimensions
Support: 120 x 203 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D21978
Turner Bequest CCXXXVIII 2 a

Catalogue entry

Blenheim Palace stands about eight miles north-west of Oxford, in extensive parkland just outside Woodstock, which is recorded on folio 3 recto opposite (D21979). It was designed by Sir John Vanbrugh for the 1st Duke of Marlborough in recognition of his victories in the War of the Spanish Succession, including the battle at Blenheim (Blindheim), Bavaria, from which the house takes its name.1
The main axis leading to the central portico of the palace runs approximately south-east through the horseshoe-shaped Great Court. At the top left Turner shows the Kitchen Court north of the main palace, in front of the two towers on the north-east side of the house. The central portico leading to the Great Hall and the three bays to its left are shown at the top right in their correct juxtaposition with the façade, but on a rather deceptive larger scale, as they actually stand a little way back from the nearer of the two towers. The view below continues the façade immediately to the right of the portico, leading round to the Stable Court west of the house. As the layout of the Great Court is symmetrical, Turner must have made these sketches from three different positions, perhaps moving nearer to study the portico and then further out to make the lower view.
There are other views of Blenheim on folios 4 verso–5 recto, 5 verso–6 recto, 6 verso–7 recto, 9 verso–10 recto, 10 verso–11 recto, 11 verso–12 recto and 12 verso (Tate D21981–D21986, D21989–D21995). The last of these is the immediate basis for watercolour studies and a finished design, discussed in the relevant entry.

Matthew Imms
August 2013

1
See ‘A History of the Palace’, Blenheim Palace, accessed 4 January 2012, http://www.blenheimpalace.com/thepalace/history.html.

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