Joseph Mallord William Turner

Study for ‘Captivity’, Rogers’s ‘Poems’

c.1830–2

In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Gouache and watercolour on paper
Dimensions
Support: 136 × 182 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D20817
Turner Bequest CCXXVII a 14

Catalogue entry

This work is an anomaly among the similarly sized drawings in ink and white chalk on blue paper in Finberg’s ‘East Cowes Castle’ grouping in his 1909 Turner Bequest Inventory1 (see the ‘Isle of Wight 1827’ section of the present catalogue), being in freely handled watercolour and gouache on buff paper, and the architecture, with a staircase approaching the arched entrance to a building, apparently with further steps inside, does not correspond directly with the known features of East Cowes Castle (since demolished) as depicted in the blue paper drawings.
The composition relates directly to that of Tate D25343 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 221), a somewhat larger and rougher colour study on white paper which Eric Shanes tentatively linked to Turner’s vignette design Captivity for the 1834 edition of Samuel Rogers’s Poems;2 the finished watercolour of the subject is Tate D27704 (Turner Bequest CCLXXX 187). The mullioned and transomed castle window lit from within, foliage, entrance with carving above and pale towers are all elaborated there, although the bridge in the foreground here is replaced by a partially raised drawbridge to give a greater sense of isolation to the woman peering from the window over Rogers’s ‘green-mantled moat’ (‘Captivity’, line 8). Tate D27527 (Turner Bequest CCLXXX 10) is an alternative design, an equally loose, exploratory watercolour showing the occupant of a cell lit by a similar, heavily framed window, the key element of Turner’s image.
1
Finberg 1909, II, pp.700–1, CCXXVII a 1–57; see also Reynolds 1969, p.74..
2
See Eric Shanes, Turner’s Watercolour Explorations 1810–1842, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1997, pp.97, 99.
Verso:
Blank; inscribed by ?John Ruskin in pencil ‘232 | O’ top left, upside down. This relates to Ruskin’s initial categorisation of the Turner Bequest drawings, and appears on many of the Isle of Wight pencil drawings on blue paper in Turner Bequest CCXXVIII; Finberg noted that ‘they formed part of a parcel endorsed. “O. 232. Chalk scrawls on grey. Rubbish.”’1

Matthew Imms
September 2016

1
Finberg 1909, II, p.702.

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