Joseph Mallord William Turner

City Barges in the Lord Mayor’s Day Pageant on the River Thames off the Palace of Westminster


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 100 × 160 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCVI 33

Catalogue entry

The drawings between folios 20 verso and 34 verso (D40967, D17979) include rapid studies and notes of barges, flags, costumes and bridges along the River Thames, and appear to record or relate to the Lord Mayor’s Day procession of 9 November 1824, as discussed in the sketchbook’s Introduction. Here the pageant is arriving for the Lord Mayor’s swearing-in at the Palace of Westminster. Westminster Hall and the towers of Westminster Abbey are on the left, while to the right the south side of Westminster Bridge looms in steep perspective. Compare the 1830 watercolour of The Lord Mayor’s Show at Westminster by David Roberts (1796–1864; Guildhall Art Gallery, London). See also the verso (D17977) and folios 34 recto and verso (D17978, D17979).
The viewpoint prefigures that in Turner’s later depiction of the scene in less happy circumstances in his major oil painting The Burning of the House of Lords and Commons, 16th October, 1834, exhibited at the British Institution in 1835 (Philadelphia Museum of Art).1 He had long been familiar with the setting; see the watercolour of about 1796 (Tate D00894; Turner Bequest XXXIII W). Compare the historical scene of Queen Elizabeth I arriving by barge in the watercolour Whitehall of about 1835 (Manchester Art Gallery),2 which shows Westminster in the distance.

Matthew Imms
December 2014

Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.207–10 no.359, pl.364 (colour).
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.436 no.1149, reproduced.

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