Joseph Mallord William Turner

Folkestone from the Sea


On loan

Turner’s House (Twickenham, UK): Turner’s English Coasts

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Watercolour and gouache on paper
Support: 488 × 684 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCVIII Y

Display caption

Here the moon plays a key role in Turner's narrative. A party of English smugglers is shown receiving barrels of illegal gin from French sailors by moonlight. An operation routinely carried out under the cover of nightfall is exposed by a sunrise which has arrived too early for the miscreants. From the right approaches a boat of the Coast Blockade, initiated in 1816 to combat smuggling, which is spotted by the men who quickly try to 'sink' the barrels on ropes for later retrieval. Beyond their narrative significance, the twin light sources of moon and sun fuse the atmosphere of the painting into an ethereal whole.

Gallery label, September 2004

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