Joseph Mallord William Turner

Figurehead of the ‘Victory’


Not on display

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 114 × 184 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest LXXXIX 27 a

Catalogue entry

Despite Finberg’s dismissive description, this is clearly a sketch of the figurehead of the Victory. In place at Trafalgar was a carving made by George Williams in 1801 and fitted, during repairs to the ship, as a replacement to the more elaborate original figurehead dating from 1765. The replacement, of which a replica remains today, comprised the royal arms (incorporating the escutcheon of Hanover) surmounted by the royal crown and supported by a cherub with a blue sash (starboard side) and a seraph with a red one (port side). At Trafalgar, the starboard figure lost a leg and the port, an arm. Turner’s sketch is too small and cursory to show the damage in detail, but the subject is recognisable nonetheless.

David Blayney Brown
March 2006

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