Joseph Mallord William Turner

Caerphilly Castle from the West


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 290 × 455 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest XLI 8

Catalogue entry

Caerphilly Castle was built in the late thirteenth century by Gilbert de Clare as a defence against Welsh invaders from the north of the country. Despite its exceptional size, strength and innovative centralised plan, its active life was relatively short, and by the mid-fourteenth century it had fallen into disuse. It was restored in the nineteenth century by the Marquesses of Bute, and in the mid-twentieth century its system of moats and defensive lakes was recreated by the local authority. In Turner’s day it was dilapidated and overgrown. There are three, possibly four, drawings of Caerphilly Castle in the Cyfarthfa sketchbook: see also D01637, D01639, and probably D01640 (Turner Bequest XLI 9, 10a, 11).
Here, Turner shows the outer west gatehouse, with to its left the north-west or ‘Lady’s’ tower. At the extreme left can be seen the western dam or ‘hornwork’. Further drawings of Caerphilly are in the Swans sketchbook, also used occasionally in the course of this tour (D01677–D01678, D01680, D01737–D01738; Turner Bequest XLII 2–3, 5, 62–63). A note on the flyleaf of the contemporary Hereford Court sketchbook (Tate D01249; Turner Bequest XXXVIII, opposite inside back cover) records a commission for a view of ‘Carfilly Castle’ from a Mr Blackshaw.
Blank; inscribed in a later hand in pencil ‘1’ (ringed); stamped in brown ink with Turner Bequest monogram.

Andrew Wilton
May 2013

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