This richly-coloured study is the most elaborate of a group continuing on folios 13–15 (D05786–D05789) in which Turner considers different views of the Pool of London, as both Finberg and Hill observe probably with a picture in mind that, as the latter adds, might be ‘a modern equivalent of Claude’s great historical ports’. Another such pairing might have contrasted a busy view of the Thames in central London with the more picturesque panorama of the river and distant City from Greenwich Park that Turner painted in London, exhibited at Turner’s Gallery in 1809 (Tate N00483).1 The interplay of church spires and ‘Commercial care and busy toil’ (as Turner described it in verses written for London) would unite these compositions. In the event, it was only in the following decade that Turner tackled the Pool of London in finished watercolours or unfinished oils, and he never completed a painting of the commercial heart of the capital.2
Hill identifies the viewpoint and buildings, including the church of St Magnus-the-Martyr and the Monument, both by Sir Christopher Wren. While some views of the river in the sketchbook are taken from a boat, here Turner has descended to the water’s edge below the wharves at low tide. Hill imagines him rising early with the sun to make the watercolour, having perhaps spent the night on a boat. To his right, not shown in any detail, would have been the Custom House, for which see folios 14 and 15 (D05788, D05789).
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.69–70 no.97 (pl.104).
Andrew Kennedy, ‘London’, in Evelyn Joll, Martin Butlin and Luke Herrmann eds., The Oxford Companion to J.M.W. Turner, Oxford 2001, p.177 and most recently James Hamilton, Turner’s Britain, exhibition catalogue, Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery, Birmingham 2003, pp.128–30.