Joseph Mallord William Turner

Historical Notes on St Michael’s Mount (Inscription by Turner)


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 110 × 88 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856

Catalogue entry

Turner’s main inscription here is a potted history of St Michael’s Mount, Cornwall. It is continued on folio 100 verso of the sketchbook (D07754) but for convenience the full transcription (as far as the writing is legible) is given here:
St. M. was anexd to St. M | Normandy calld in periculo maris. Smooth | & ... the low part was | divided by 2 rocks and the lowest of wh | was a castle razed 1699 St M by | Robert Earl of Moreton and Cornwall | before 1685. remarkable for Sanctity before the Conquest a Priory | of Benedictian by Ed the Confessor E R placed | Cistercian Monk of the Gilburdine order who [continued on D07754] rules allowed were admitted to live with them | and accordingly these the two societies a little established | to each other it was much divis... temp EIII H 4 | gave it to king Coll Camb & 4 annexed it to Sion Abbey | value 116 12 garrison in the time Richard | ... called Forlalitium
Inter alia, Turner relates how the Mount was given to the Benedictines, the order who occupied the abbey of Mont-St-Michel, Normandy, by Edward the Confessor, improved by Robert, Earl of Moreton and Cornwall, dissolved and given to the convent of Syon, Isleworth by Henry V and granted to King’s College, Cambridge by Henry VI. He notes that the abbey was occupied by Gilbertines, a reformed branch of Cistercians who also admitted lay sisters. His account contains mistakes in the dating and identity of kings as well as his usual idiosyncratic spelling.
Along with the notes on the geology of the south coast towards the front of the sketchbook, folios 3 verso–5 (D07599–D07562), Turner must have made these notes while preparing to illustrate George and William Bernard Cooke’s Picturesque Views on the Southern Coast of England published 1814–26. He also drafted a poem to accompany the plates,1 reflecting on history as well as topography. No direct source can be traced for this summary but compare, for example, William Borlase, Observations on the Antiquities Historical and Monumental of the County of Cornwall..., Oxford 1754. Turner visited St Michael’s Mount in 1811; for drawings see especially the Ivy Bridge to Penzance sketchbook (Tate D08910–D08937; Turner Bequest 31–46).

David Blayney Brown
May 2011

See notes to the Devonshire Coast No.1 sketchbook (Tate D08362–D08806; D40902–D40906; D41521–D41521; Turner Beq uest CXXIII).

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