Joseph Mallord William Turner

?Ruins at Richborough; Distant View of Sandwich; Figures ?on Board a Packet Boat or at a Quayside


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 76 × 98 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCCLXIII 27 v

Catalogue entry

The slight study of undulating features below a lively sky at the top may represent the Roman ruins at Richborough Castle, near Sandwich; see under folio 7 recto (D35769) for clearer views elsewhere in this sketchbook.
Along the bottom edge, as Finberg recognised,1 is a distant prospect of Sandwich itself, looking west along the River Stour, with the Romanesque tower of St Clement’s Church and the ogee dome of St Peter’s, under the disk of the low sun. Compare the similar views on folio 27 verso and 29 verso (D35804, D35809; Turner Bequest CCCLXIII 26, 28a). See also folio 33 verso (D35817; Turner Bequest CCCLXIII 32a), and for other views of the town, see under folio 6 recto (D35767). The presumably clear, golden quality of the evening light appears to have struck Turner as comparable to that in paintings by the Dutch landscapist Aelbert Cuyp (1620–1691), whose work he greatly admired, and whose name occurs (variously as ‘Cyp’ or ‘Cuyp’) as a shorthand memorandum of such effects in various sketchbooks.2
Between the two narrow landscapes is a candid outdoor sketch of men in tall hats, which continues across folio 29 recto opposite (D35808; Turner Bequest CCCLXIII 28). Although they are shown without any surroundings, Finberg noted the group as ‘on board a packet’,3 that is to say a commercial cargo and passenger vessel – a steamer, by this date – of the sort that would have taken Turner on his customary journeys down the River Thames to Margate (see under folio 10 verso; D35776). The figures, which include women on the other page, are all turned away in a line and seem to be watching something, so they may well be looking over the rail of a steamer, or perhaps waiting for one beside the sea. See also the hastily rendered, smaller groupings on folios 14 verso and 15 recto (D35784–D35785).
Apparently owing to a minor typographical error, Finberg’s 1909 Inventory notes as quoted here run straight on under the description of the recto’s subject (D35806; Turner Bequest CCCLXIII 27),4 but they evidently refer to the present page, which he would conventionally have numbered ‘27a’.

Matthew Imms
September 2016

See Finberg 1909, II, p.1178.
See Lindsay 1966, p.226 note 25, Gage 1987, p.[113] and Bachrach 2001, p.69.
Fiberg 1909, II, p.1178.
Finberg 1909, II, p.1178.

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