Joseph Mallord William Turner

Hampton Court Palace from the River Thames; Figure Studies


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 110 × 185 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCXXVII 2 a

Catalogue entry

Subsequent to Finberg’s 1909 Inventory, both he and the Turner scholar C.F. Bell identified the subject here as ‘Hampton Court Palace’;1 Eric Shanes2 noted the link to Turner’s watercolour Hampton Court Palace of about 1827 (private collection),3 engraved in 1829 for the Picturesque Views in England and Wales (Tate impression: T04550). As noted below, this is the first of numerous sketches at the beginning and end of the sketchbook to show the royal palace, historically in Middlesex but now within the Borough of Richmond upon Thames (Richmond itself being about three miles to the north-east), ranged along the north bank of the River Thames. The original medieval manor had been greatly expanded by Cardinal Wolsey and Henry VIII in the early sixteenth century; from 1689 Sir Christopher Wren demolished some of the Tudor palace and added to it in the Baroque style on the east and south fronts for William III and Mary II, but it was effectively abandoned as a royal residence by George II after 1737, being given over to grace and favour apartments and eventually opened to the public in 1838,4 about a decade after Turner made his sketches.
The artist had recorded similar prospects of the palace from the south bank beside Ditton Field, which remains open ground, while living downriver at Isleworth in 1805; compare an ink drawing in the Studies for Pictures: Isleworth sketchbook (Tate D05545; Turner Bequest XC 36); and a large, unfinished oil of that period (Tate N02693),5 which remained in his studio and may well have informed the England and Wales composition, with its broad bank and willow trees in the left foreground.6 A similar general prospect is recorded on folio 3 recto opposite (D20737).
The present page comprises three bands of sketches. Across the middle is a wooded river view, probably looking north-west up the Thames with the palace loosely indicated in the distance. At the top left is a detail of the Baroque south-eastern corner of the complex’s south front, with selective details of the façade’s regular stonework and fenestration, beyond the curved retaining wall of the Broad Walk, with pillars and an urn, and the tiny dark form of a horse and cart on the river bank, all incorporated into the finished design as Jan Piggott has noted.7 Below are quick studies of various men and women and loose indications of small boats or punts, which perhaps informed the group on the right of the watercolour.

Matthew Imms
November 2015

Undated MS notes by Finberg (died 1939) and C.F. Bell (died 1966) in copies of Finberg 1909, Tate Britain Prints and Drawings Room, II, p.699.
See Shanes 1979, p.156; see also Hill 1993, p.161, and Piggott 2006, p.9.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.395 no.812.
See ‘Hampton Court Palace timeline’ and ‘A building history’, Historic Royal Palaces, accessed 2 November 2015, and
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, p.117 no.164, pl.164.
See Hill 1993, p.161.
See Piggott 2006, p.9.

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