The main view appears to be a loose depiction of a steamer at the end of Jarvis’s Landing Place, looking north from the Great Beach at Margate. Beneath billowing clouds, a single sail is picked out in white chalk, caught in sunlight towards the horizon. There is a smaller cloud study at the bottom left, framed by pencil lines. The incident in the main drawing presumably prompted Turner to write ‘Rysdael’ below, perhaps recalling the similar effect of a bright sail in the painting Port Ruysdael, exhibited in 1827 (Yale Center for British Art, New Haven), but not sold until March 1844;1 its title being an invented place name in homage to the seventeenth-century Dutch sea painter Jacob van Ruisdael.2
Secondary to another likely Margate view, a small sketch on the verso of the present sheet (Tate D34161; Turner Bequest CCCXLI 427v) appears associable with events in February 1844, when Turner also happened to be in correspondence about Fishing Boats Bringing a Disabled Ship into Port Ruysdael, a painting seemingly then in progress and exhibited in the course of that year (Tate N00536).3 There, the sails are dark against an overcast sky, although there is still a burst of light illuminating the waves near the centre.
Fred Bachrach has suggested the present work is ‘a faint sketch of a [Ruisdael] landscape at Dresden in 1836 [sic]’4 without further comment, but the reference is unclear; along with other Old Master works, Turner had drawn Ruisdael’s woodland Hunt in the Dresden Picture Gallery on his 1835 tour, in the Copenhagen to Dresden sketchbook (Tate D31030; Turner Bequest CCCVII 6).
For more on the likely Margate setting, see the Introduction to this subsection.
Turner’s use of this sheet of buff paper is unusual among the Margate views grouped here, although several others are on blue paper. Compare one other sheet of similar size and colour (Tate D29014; Turner Bequest CCXCII 63).