Joseph Mallord William Turner

Bow and Arrow or Rufus Castle, Portland


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 170 × 209 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXXIV 26

Catalogue entry

Bow and Arrow Castle is also known as Rufus Castle, apparently by association with the Norman King William II (William ‘Rufus’, 1087–1100). It stands above Church Ope Cove on the south-eastern side of the Isle of Portland and is here seen from the north-east. Turner’s viewpoint is accessible from the lane by the Portland Museum off Wakeham Street, Easton, via a footpath through the archway on the right. In an rare revision, Turner has drawn the arch twice, the upper version giving it rather more prominence than in reality. At the time of his visit the foreground was a quarry.
Finberg notes that this sketch and that on folio 27 recto (D08838) are the sources for the watercolour Bow and Arrow Castle, Isle of Portland of about 1815 (University of Liverpool),1 engraved in 1817 for the Picturesque Views on the Southern Coast of England2 (see the concordance of the series in the 1811 tour introduction). The composition is largely based on the present drawing, with its dramatic, steep view up from the castle’s setting of solid rock with a prominent vertical fissure to the massive corbels which still survive on its roofline. The mock-medieval Pennsylvania Castle, recorded in the sketch made on folio 27 recto from further back and higher up, is included in the watercolour, where it is just visible through and above the archway; Turner also introduced numerous quarrymen working in the foreground. He wrote of the Portland quarries in verse in the Devonshire Coast, No.1 sketchbook (Tate D08484; Turner Bequest CXXIII 61).
There are studies around Weymouth, the nearest town on the mainland, on folios 24 recto and 25 recto (D08835, D08836).
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.352 no.459, reproduced.
Finberg 1909, I, p.354; see also Shanes 1981, p.152, Milner 1990 p.36, and Hanley 1992, p.29; note that Wilton 1979, p.352 only mentions the different view on folio 27 recto.
Technical notes:
There is some rubbing or spotting from the centre of the drawing upwards. The sheet is slightly darkened from prolonged display; the edges are unaffected, having been protected by a display mount.
Blank, save for inscriptions by John Ruskin in red ink ‘23’ bottom left and ‘636’ top right, both upside down.

Matthew Imms
February 2011

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