Joseph Mallord William Turner

Study for ‘Caligula’s Palace and Bridge’; Sandwich; Ruins at Richborough


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 7

Catalogue entry

The page is largely taken up with a study of classical ruins, which relates directly to Turner’s large painting Caligula’s Palace and Bridge, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1831 (Tate N00512),1 equating to the tottering structure near the centre, set contre-jour against the low sun. The low arch to the right and the towers and colonnades beyond also appear in the finished design. There are other studies on folios 6 verso opposite (D35768), 32 verso and 33 recto (D35815–D25816; CCCLXIII 31a, 32). The first and last of these include studies for the overall composition, with the element shown here shaded in.
Upside-down towards the top is a distant view of ‘Sandw[ich]’, with the Romanesque tower of St Clement’s Church and the ogee dome of St Peter’s; they are both shown in more detail on folio 6 recto (D35767), under which other views of the town are noted.
The rough shapes inverted at the top and down the outer edge appear to be the massive ruins of perimeter walls at Richborough Castle (ancient Rutupiae), in open country about a mile north-west of Sandwich. With remains dating back to 43 AD, it is associated with the Roman invasion of Britain in that year.2 See also folios 9 recto (D35773), 28 verso, 38 verso, 39 verso–40 recto and 44 verso (D35807, D35824, D35826–D35827, D35836; Turner Bequest CCCLXIII 27v, 37a, 38a, 39, 43a) and inside the back cover (D41228). There also is a page of single views around Richborough in the Richmond Hill; Hastings to Margate sketchbook (Tate D10465; Turner Bequest CXL 29a) from the mid 1810s, and others in the Dieppe and Kent sketchbook (Tate; Turner Bequest CCCLXI), used on the autumn tour of France in 1845.

Matthew Imms
September 2016

Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.189–90 no.337, pl.339 (colour).
See ‘Richborough Roman Fort and Amphitheatre’, English Heritage, accessed 27 September 2016,

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