Joseph Mallord William Turner

Palace of La Belle Gabrielle


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Watercolour on paper
Support: 353 × 510 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXIII 47

Catalogue entry

Finberg characterised this loosely painted ‘colour beginning’ as simply ‘A classical subject’,1 and Eric Shanes placed it tentatively among Italianate studies related to a view of Lake Albano engraved for the annual Keepsake of 1829; see under D25447 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 324) in the present grouping.2 He also suggested a possible connection3 with an oil sketch traditionally known as ‘Italian Landscape with Tower, Trees and Figures’ (Tate N02992),4 since renamed through Ian Warrell’s research as Landscape with Tower, Trees and Figures; possibly Arcueil near Paris and dated to about 1827–8.5
Warrell has since convincingly linked the present sheet6 with the watercolour of about 1832 (private collection),7 engraved for the 1834 edition of the Keepsake as Palace of La Belle Gabrielle (Tate impressions: T04627, T06155–T06156; see the Introduction to this section). The setting is the River Seine at Marly-le-Roi, now on the western outskirts of Paris. As lightly indicated here, upstream to the south-east on the left of the trees in the middle distance of the finished design Turner showed the Château de la Chaussée, near Bougival, which was later destroyed by fire. It was associated with Gabrielle d’Estrées, the mistress of Henri IV (King of France, 1589–1610), hence the title of the composition.8
As Warrell has noted, it was based on a detailed drawing in pen and ink and gouache over pencil on blue paper (Tate D24887; Turner Bequest CCLX 51),9 one of a number in that mode which he has placed at about ‘?1827–9’.10 The foreground of the ink drawing features an apparently contemporary, fashionably dressed crowd at leisure by the river, hinted at here as figures coalescing out of strokes of brown wash, and transformed in the finished design into the king with his mistress and courtiers.11
Turner travelled along the Seine in 1821, 1826, 1828, 1829 and 1832.12 Marly, an 1832 Keepsake subject, shows the view in the opposite direction; see under the colour study Tate D25152 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 30). There is also a second, slightly more detailed study for the present subject (D36329; CCCLXV 38).
Finberg 1909, II, p.818.
See Shanes 1997, pp.29, 93.
Ibid., pp.98, 100.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, p.178 no.307, pl.310.
See Ian Warrell in Warrell, Blandine Chavanne and Michael Kitson, Turner et le Lorrain, exhibition catalogue, Musée des beaux-arts, Nancy 2002, pp.134 no.64, reproduced in colour, p.195.
See Warrell 1999, p.216.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.424 no.1049, as untraced.
Ibid., p.215.
See ibid., pp.266–8 nos.23–44.
See ibid., pp.215–16.
See Ian Warrell, ‘Seine’ in Evelyn Joll, Martin Butlin and Luke Herrmann (eds.), The Oxford Companion to J.M.W. Turner, Oxford 2001, p.289.

Matthew Imms
March 2017

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