Joseph Mallord William Turner

Study for ‘A Tempest’, Rogers’s ‘Poems’


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite and watercolour on paper
Support: 239 × 170 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXXX 100

Catalogue entry

This is a preliminary colour study for the finished watercolour, A Tempest, one of seven vignette illustrations which Turner produced for the last work in Rogers’s Poems, ‘The Voyage of Columbus’ (see Tate D27719; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 202). Although the two works depict the same general subject, they differ significantly in palette and form. In this study, Turner shows the angel soaring out of the clouds with arms outstretched, as if to cast a protective shade over Columbus’s ships sailing below. The composition bears some similarity with a tiny thumbnail sketch drawn by the artist in his working copy of the 1827 edition of Poems (see Tate D36330; Turner Bequest CCCLXVI p.244). The small composition also depicts ships at sea with a supernatural figure soaring across from the right. Adele Holcomb has also drawn attention to a further slight study found in the margin beside the description of the sinister spirit Merion (see Tate D36330; Turner Bequest CCCLXVI p.250). She believes this rejected watercolour vignette develops the bird-like figure hinted at by the artist.1
This work was part of a parcel of studies described by John Ruskin as ‘Studies for Italy. Coarse, but noble’. 2 Finberg records how Ruskin later described his phrasing in a letter to Ralph Nicholson Wornum as ‘horrible’, adding ‘I never meant it to be permanent’.3
Holcomb 1966, p.93.
A.J. Finberg, A Complete Inventory of the Drawings in the Turner Bequest, London 1909, vol.II, p.896.
Finberg 1909, vol.I, p.xi
Inscribed by unknown hands in pencil ‘CCLXXX 100’ bottom right and ‘128 | b’ lower centre left, descending left, and ‘AB 83 P | R’ bottom left, descending left-hand edge
Stamped in black ‘CCLXXX 100’ top left, descending left-hand edge

Meredith Gamer
August 2006

Revised by Nicola Moorby
August 2008

Read full Catalogue entry

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