See Introduction to the sketchbook and notes to the recto (D05802) and folio 22 verso (D05801) for its various studies of (mainly rustic) figures, their character and context. In this instance, Finberg’s title and Hill’s represent opposing interpretations in which art-historical trends are likely to play a part. Assuming Turner was working backwards in the sketchbook at this point, Hill sees this subject, together with 24 verso (D05805)and 25 verso (D05807), as a ‘scene of desperate rural poverty’. He describes the title given in the 1974 Royal Academy catalogue as ‘misleading’, but while it is certainly bland, the authors do draw attention to similarities to Turner’s Harvest Home sketchbook (Tate D05351–D05375; D40273; D40342–D40343; Turner Bequest LXXXVI) which probably provides the best clue to the subject.
The Harvest Home sketchbook, with other drawings, is connected with unfinished pictures of harvest-time at Cassiobury Park, near Watford, the Hertfordshire estate of the Earl of Essex which Turner visited in late summer 1807 (see Sketchbooks and Drawings Connected with Cassiobury Park and Harvest Pictures for the Earl of Essex circa 1807–12). Turner made various drawings of the harvest, including a wagon loaded with hay, as seen here, and the harvest home. He also began two oils, Harvest Home (Tate N00562)1 and Cassiobury Park: Reaping (Tate N04663),2 in the first of which the laden wagon is visible through a barn door. In this drawing, it passes before what Hill calls ‘a mediaeval town gateway’ and is surrounded by crowds, the ‘subject of the disputation’. However, as the gateway looks very like the Gothic north-west gate of Cassiobury, these crowds are more likely to be estate workers bringing in the ‘last load’ and roused by the prospect of harvest food and drink than embroiled in a peasant revolt. Perhaps Turner was considering a third or alternative picture of the Cassiobury harvest, and if so the drawing would be a later addition to the sketchbook, dating from 1807.
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