Joseph Mallord William Turner

Boats, with Houses Beyond ?at Bruges


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 78 × 118 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCXVI 169

Catalogue entry

With agile handling, Turner records a scene on a canal, possibly at Bruges. Boats and barges are shown navigating the waterway or mooring at quayside. A parade of buildings can be seen in the distance. The primary focus of Turner’s attentions is a barge, which he has studied in detail. The vessel is similar to one recorded on Tate D19870; Turner Bequest CCXVI 158), and bears a carved wooden figurehead in the shape of a lion. The animal holds an escutcheon upon which an heraldic design with three keys is painted. Turner has drawn a detail of this coat of arms at bottom right, annotating it with the inscription ‘Black Yellow Keys’. These are the colours of the flag of Flanders, which appear in the form of a black lion rampant on a yellow or golden field. The coat of arms, then, most likely signifies that the barge was of Flemish origin, given the inclusion of the region’s colours and the lion figurehead.

Alice Rylance-Watson
June 2014

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