Joseph Mallord William Turner

Study for ‘A Country Blacksmith’; with Inscriptions by Turner: Accounts

c.1807–14

In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Graphite on paper
Dimensions
Support: 69 x 112 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D08296
Turner Bequest CXXII 8 a

Catalogue entry

The man standing in apparently confrontational pose towards the left may have been observed at a blacksmith’s forge, informing the subject of Turner’s painting A Country Blacksmith Disputing upon the Price of Iron, and the Price Charged to the Butcher for Shoeing his Poney, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1807 (Tate N00478).1 The structure to his right is not, as Finberg suggested, a ‘distant building’, but the hearth of the forge, with its open archway on the left and what appears to be the outline of the hindquarters of a horse on the right. Both these elements appear in the picture in a similar juxtaposition. There are further studies on the recto of the present leaf and on folio 9 recto opposite (D08295, D08297).
With the page turned vertically, Turner inscribed the following accounts in ink at the top (that is, to the left and ascending vertically in relation to the drawing):
      Paid for the Freehold Lee common 
      1 of May 1809 -      19 Deposit.  
                            8 . 5 Interestv
                           76v
                           16 Law Exv
                         |119 . 5 
At an auction on 2 December 1806, Turner had bought a freehold cottage and half an acre of land at Lee Clump, bordering Lee Common to the north-east of Great Missenden in Hertfordshire. The cost of £95 is reflected in the £19 deposit and the £76 remainder noted here.2 It has been proposed that this property was acquired as a discreet country retreat for Turner’s mistress, Sarah Danby.3 Turner retained it at his death,4 and ultimately owned a small but varied portfolio of property and land scattered around London and the Home Counties.5 The Buckinghamshire property is mentioned again as ‘100 Bucks’6 on the sheet of accounts associated with this sketchbook (D40900; [Turner Bequest CXXIII (4) verso]).
Again with the page turned vertically, Turner added an unrelated sum in pencil half way down on the left (that is, at the bottom centre ascending vertically in relation to the drawing):

Matthew Imms
September 2013

1
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.52–3 no.68, pl.78 (colour).
2
See Hamilton 1997, pp.100, 319 note 120, citing Turner family papers; see also sale particulars, reproduced p.101.
3
Ibid., p.119.
4
See Bailey 1997, pp.109, 428 note 11.
5
Summarised in John Gage, J.M.W. Turner: ‘A Wonderful Range of Mind’, New Haven and London 1987, p.171; see also N.R.D. Powell, ‘Finance and Property’ in Evelyn Joll, Martin Butlin and Luke Herrmann (eds.), The Oxford Companion to J.M.W. Turner, Oxford 2001, pp.107–8.
6
Finberg 1961, p.171, gives the price as ‘£102’, following his own transcription (Finberg 1909, I, p.337) of the notes on the associated sheet D40900 (Turner Bequest CCXXII (4) [verso]), though Turner’s figure there is a round ‘100’.

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