Joseph Mallord William Turner

Launceston Castle and St Mary Magdalene’s Church from St Thomas’s


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 90 × 152 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXXXII 110

Catalogue entry

Launceston Castle and the tower of St Mary Magdalene’s Church are seen to the south-east, from or near the bridge over the River Kensey. The indeterminate buildings on the left may be part of the ruins of Launceston’s priory, now built over at this point. The hillside below the church and castle has also been developed, but they remain prominent landmarks. There is a similar view from further north on folio 111 recto (D09601).
The small silhouette at the bottom may indicate a rider on a horse or donkey; in the watercolour of Launceston, Cornwall of about 1826 (private collection),1 engraved in 1827 for the series Picturesque Views in England and Wales, a rider, thought to represent the Quaker George Fox, imprisoned at Launceston in 1656,2 is shown directly below the distant castle. Perhaps the rider observed here sowed the idea of that motif in Turner’s mind when he eventually came to make the watercolour.
For further views of Launceston, see under folio 106 recto (D09596).
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.392 no.792, reproduced.
See Martha Mel Edmunds, ‘Picture Notes: Launceston Castle’, Turner Studies, vol.4, no.1, Winter 1984, pp.60–1, and Eric Shanes, Turner’s England 1810–38, London 1990, pp.170–1

Matthew Imms
June 2014

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