Joseph Mallord William Turner

Study for ‘The Landing of Columbus’, for Rogers’s ‘Poems’


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

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Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite and watercolour on paper
Support: 169 × 240 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXXX 99

Catalogue entry

This is a preliminary study for the finished watercolour, The Landing of Columbus, one of seven vignette illustrations which Turner designed for ‘The Voyage of Columbus’, the last work in Rogers’s Poems (see Tate D27708; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 191). Despite the rough nature of this hastily drawn sketch, the composition can be related to that of the finished vignette. Both images show Columbus and his crew approaching the shore to be met by a throng of Native Americans with their chief in their midst on a raised throne. In the background can be seen Columbus’s ship on the left and a group of palm trees on the right. However, in this study the line of disembarking Europeans, including one figure bearing a cross, is located directly in the foreground. In the final design Turner pushed them back to the middle distance and painted the waves lapping against the shore.
The study was once part of a parcel labelled by John Ruskin as ‘Studies for Italy. Coarse, but noble’.1 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’.2
Turner produced two additional preparatory studies related to The Landing of Columbus (see Tate D27711, Turner Bequest CCLXXX 194 and Tate D27529; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 12).
Finberg 1909, vol.II, p.896.
Ibid., vol.I, p.xi.
Technical notes:
Watermark ‘BE & S. 1823’
Inscribed by unknown hands in pencil ‘Box 99’ lower right and ‘CCLXXX 99’ and ‘AB 83 P | R’ and ‘No. 71 – 109’ bottom right

Meredith Gamer
August 2006

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