Joseph Mallord William Turner

Place de l’Hôtel de Ville and the Cathedral, Beauvais


Not on display

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 114 × 185 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXXIII 1

Catalogue entry

Many of the sketches within this sketchbook are very rough and hasty, having been drawn from a moving vehicle or in challenging conditions. This drawing, however, is an unusually detailed and precise study indicating that Turner devoted a good deal of time and care to it. The subject is the cathedral at Beauvais (Cathédrale Saint-Pierre de Beauvais), a city in the Oise region of France, approximately fifty miles north of Paris.1 Begun during the thirteenth century, the striking Gothic building was never finished and unusually lacks a nave and a steeple.
Turner’s viewpoint for the sketch is to the south-east of the cathedral, from the square known as the Place de l’Hôtel de Ville. The area contained a number of historic houses dating from as early as the twelfth century, and visible on the right-hand side is the Maison de Trois Piliers (House of the Three Pillars), a thirteenth-century house notable for its decorated columns. During the nineteenth century, the house was an inn (Aux Trois Piliers) and was recommended by guide books as a good location for an interior view of Beauvais and the cathedral.2 Many artists chose to depict the same vista as recorded here by Turner.3 However, like much of the city the house was destroyed by bombardment during the Second World War.
The study is the only drawing within this sketchbook devoted to a location north of Paris.

Nicola Moorby
February 2013

First identified in Guillaud, Alfrey and Wilton 1981, p.107.
See for example Heinrich August O. Reichard, A Descriptive Road Book of France, London 1829, p.57, and Brockendon’s Road Book from London to Naples, London 1835, p.34.
See for example Samuel Prout (1783–1852), Loading the Coach at the Trois Piliers, Beauvais, sold at Christie’s, London, 7 April 1992, lot 00162; William Brockendon in Brockendon’s Road Book from London to Naples, London 1835, betweenpp.34 and 35; and a watercolour by Antoine Louis Goblain (born 1779) (Bibliotechque nationale de France), reproduced online at, accessed February 2013.

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