Joseph Mallord William Turner

Holywell: The Interior of the Cloisters, St Winifred’s Well


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 130 × 79 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest XLVI 18 a

Catalogue entry

Inverted relative to the sketchbook’s foliation, the drawing is continued on folio 19 recto opposite (D02022). Such a minutely careful study of gothic architecture is rare in a book of this size. The shrine of St Winifred, or Gwenfrewi, a Welsh saint of the mid-seventh century, has been revered since a spring welled up in the place where her head fell after Prince Caradoc decapitated her in rage at her refusal to submit to his lust. She was restored miraculously to life by St Beuno, who in historical fact was her uncle. The very fine Perpendicular chapel and crypt housing the miraculous pool were built in the first decade of the sixteenth century, probably under the patronage of Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry VII. Turner’s viewpoint is the upper chapel, looking down towards the door into the well itself. No finished watercolour is known of the subject.

Andrew Wilton
May 2013

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