Joseph Mallord William Turner

Headland Views in Devon


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 187 × 113 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXCVIII 56 a

Catalogue entry

In a continuation of an endeavour begun three pages previously, here Turner describes coastal views copied from an illustrated maritime text, The Little Sea Torch. Written by Richard Bougard, it was translated from the French by J.T. Serres and published in London in 1801.1 For more detailed information about the book, and an interrogation of Turner’s use of it, see the sketchbook Introduction. For a list of pages additional to the one presently under scrutiny which demonstrate Turner’s interest in transcribing illustrations from Bougard’s text, see the entry for folio 55 recto (D17296).
At the top of the page, which Turner orients vertically in this instance, a simple outline of a headland features a small, pointed island darkly shaded towards the left, and some light hatching across the peninsula on the right. This sketch describes the Great Mewstone, which sits about half a mile out from Wembury Point in south Devon.2 The drawing directly copies engraving 4 on plate 5 of The Little Sea Torch, which is captioned: ‘Mew Stone, N.bE. 4 or 5 Miles distant’.3
Beneath this is a second sketch of the Mewstone, once again emulating an engraving on plate 5 of The Little Sea Torch, which is numbered ‘10’, and captioned with the description ‘Mew Stone from the Buoy of the Knapp’.4
Directly below the drawings of the Mewstone is the first of Turner’s inscriptions on the page, to which Finberg assigned the identification ‘Stoke Point’, a headland in south Devon.5 This refers to the sketch immediately below, which describes two rocky headlands and the receding coastline in the background, again observed from a viewpoint on the water. The corresponding engraving in The Little Sea Torch is also on plate 5, is numbered 12, and described as ‘Stoke Point W.N.W’.6
Across the centre of the page is a somewhat more detailed drawing. Finberg identifies the inscription below as ‘Burr Island’, in reference to Burgh Island, a tidal island on the south coast of Devon.7 Turner describes the island as it appears in the seventh engraving on plate 5 of The Little Sea Torch.8 This illustration is titled in the original as ‘Burr Island. E.b.S.½S’.9 Atop its highest point the ruins of Burgh’s chapel are visible. Possibly left over from a monastery at the site, the chapel became a ‘huers hut’; a place where a watchman could look out for shoals of pilchards and then give the signal to waiting local fishermen by crying out.10 Turner’s drawing and its inscription are separated off from the sketches below by a fine, horizontal line.
Richard Bougard, The Little Sea Torch: or, True Guide for Coasting Pilots: by which they are clearly instructed how to navigate along the coasts of Malta, Corsica, Sardinia, and others in the Straits; and of The Coast of Barbary, from Cape Bon to Cape de Verd, trans. with corrections and additions by John Thomas Serres, London 1801. For an online and PDF facsimile, see ‘The Little Sea Torch’, Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal,, accessed 26 October 2015.
‘The Great Mewstone’, South Devon AONB,, accessed 6 November 2015.
‘Plate 5’, The Little Sea Torch,, accessed 6 November 2015.
Finberg 1909, I, p.605.
‘Plate 5’, The Little Sea Torch.
‘Burgh Island Galleries’, BBC: Devon Photographs A–Z,, accessed 6 November 2015.
Finberg, p.605.
‘Plate 6’, The Little Sea Torch,, accessed 6 November 2015.
‘Hope Cove circular walk’, BBC Local Devon, ,, accessed 6 November 2015.
‘Plate 6’, The Little Sea Torch.

Maud Whatley
January 2016

Read full Catalogue entry


You might like