Joseph Mallord William Turner

Palace of La Belle Gabrielle

c.1829–32

In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Watercolour on paper
Dimensions
Support: 352 x 508 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D36329
Turner Bequest CCCLXV 38

Catalogue entry

Finberg called this loosely painted ‘colour beginning’ simply ‘A river bank, with figures’,1 and Eric Shanes tentatively linked it with the watercolour Richmond Hill and Bridge of about 1828–9 (British Museum, London),2 engraved in 1832 for Charles Heath’s Picturesque Views in England and Wales project (Tate impressions: T04581, T04582).3 Tate D25198 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 76) is perhaps a colour study for that design, and has been placed in the ‘England and Wales Colour Studies c.1825–39’ section of the present catalogue.
Ian Warrell has since convincingly linked this sheet4 with a watercolour of about 1832 (private collection),5 engraved for the 1834 edition of Heath’s annual 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. Upstream to the south-east on the left of the trees in the mid-distance of the finished design, although not indicated here, 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.6
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),7 one of a number in that mode which he has placed at about ‘?1827–9’.8 The foreground of the ink drawing features an apparently contemporary, fashionably dressed crowd at leisure by the river, hinted at here by figures coalescing out of strokes of the brown wash also used to suggest afternoon shadows cast by trees across the path; they were transformed in the finished design into the king with his mistress and courtiers.9
Turner travelled along the Seine in 1821, 1826, 1828, 1829 and 1832.10 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 less detailed study for the present subject (Tate D25169; CCLXIII 47).
1
Finberg 1909, II, p.818.
2
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.397 no.833, pl.190.
3
See Shanes 1997, p.97.
4
See Warrell 1999, p.216.
5
Wilton 1979, p.424 no.1049, as untraced.
6
Ibid., p.215.
7
Ibid.
8
See ibid., pp.266–8 nos.23–44.
9
See ibid., pp.215–16.
10
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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