This busy scene with figures and what appear to be market stalls has Portsmouth Harbour as its backdrop, where moored warships are shown. The waterfront has since undergone much development, and the viewpoint is unclear, but may be on the Gosport side looking east to the dome of Portsmouth Cathedral, just to the left of centre. Turner was presumably using the opportunity of embarking for or returning from the Isle of Wight (see under folio 2 recto; D20735) to make a few studies, complementing his sustained survey of Portsmouth and Gosport, probably dating to 1824, in the London Bridge and Portsmouth sketchbook (Tate; Turner Bequest CCVI).
The skyline of the slight sketch at the top left appears to include the Vulcan Block clock tower and the tower at Baltic Wharf (which does not survive). The clearest feature of the corresponding sketch at the top right is the semaphore tower at the main naval dockyard complex, which is some way to the north of the other buildings; it also seems to be roughly indicated in a view from the Portsmouth side on folio 10 recto (D20747), under which other Portsmouth views are discussed.
On folio 32 verso (D20779; Turner Bequest CCXXVII 30) is a sketch of two women whom way have been among those shown here.
As discussed in the sketchbook’s introduction, this leaf’s blank recto does not have a Tate ‘D’ accession number. It was prepared with a grey wash, and is inscribed by John Ruskin in red ink ‘23’ and stamped in black ‘CCXXVII – 23’ at the bottom right.
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