This detailed drawing of Spa formed the basis of a gouache, pen and ink and watercolour drawing of the same view (Tate D29017; Turner Bequest CCXCII 66). Turner’s inscription at the bottom left is believed to read ‘Jeal’ according to the Turner scholars Martin Butlin, Andrew Wilton and John Gage. They have interpreted ‘Jeal’ as a possible reference to the town of Jalhay situated approximately twenty miles north-east of Spa.1 Cecilia Powell, on the other hand, has transcribed Turner’s inscription as ‘Seats’.2
The lofty spire of the Church of Saint-Rémacle occupies the centre of the composition. To the left, on the gradient, is a building in classical style which housed the town’s spring and was erected to commemorate Peter the Great of Russia who had visited Spa to take the waters in 1717. According to the publisher William Chambers, who toured the area in 1841, the building was a ‘handsome edifice with a portico over the main spring’ and was erected by the Russian monarch ‘in gratitude for the benefits which he received’.3
In comparison with the detailed rendering of the town centre the surrounding Ardennes hillsides are roughly rendered, Turner inscribing the word ‘Corn’ to demarcate one of the crop fields lining the ridge.