Joseph Mallord William Turner

Canterbury Cathedral: The Crypt, with the Tomb of Cardinal Morton


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 203 × 264 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest XXVI 72

Catalogue entry

The crypt of Canterbury Cathedral, built about 1100, lies under the Choir, raising it much higher than the nave. It is famous for the capitals of its columns, which have been described as ‘the most ambitious, most finely conceived, and ... best preserved Early Romanesque sculpture in the country.’1 This drawing was first described by Finberg as ‘The Crypt, Hereford Cathedral’, but re-identified as Canterbury by him in 1918.
The drawing was originally bound so that it faced what is now folio 70 recto (D00630; Turner Bequest XXVI 73), and the ribs of the tunnel vault are outlined by Turner in pencil on that page, as a tentative continuation of this study. The edge of the watercolour wash used on this leaf is also visible there. That Turner went to the trouble of washing this drawing with tones of grey, ochre and brown suggests the effect on him of this bold and, by contemporary standards, primitive architecture, an effect that can be measured in the view of the interior of Ewenny Priory that he had showed at the Royal Academy in 1797 (National Museum Wales, Cardiff);2 see the pencil note that he made of that building in his Smaller South Wales sketchbook (Tate D00472; Turner Bequest XXV 11).
The drawing was made with the page turned horizontally.
See John Newman, North East and East Kent, The Buildings of England, 3rd edition, Harmondsworth 1983, p. 178.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.325 no.227, pl.28.
Blank; inscribed in a modern hand in pencil ‘40’; stamped in brown ink with Turner Bequest monogram.

Andrew Wilton
April 2012

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