Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Bow of a Ship of the Line, and Details of Rigging


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

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Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 112 × 190 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXCIX 42

Catalogue entry

Continuing a theme explored on several of the surrounding pages, here Turner produces intricate studies of technical details which contribute to the broader architecture of a ship of the line.1
The most expansive drawing on the present sheet describes the bow of a vessel. Made with the page inverted in relation to the foliation of the book, the sketch stretches from a section of the hull dotted with gun ports towards bottom left, to the tip of the bowsprit and the heel of the jib-boom at top right. It is overlapped by a smaller study of a vertical section of rigging and timber at far right. The jib-boom extends onto the facing page, folio 41 verso (D17434).
The rest of the current sheet is occupied with several further studies of masts and rigging. Towards far right, the vertical section of rigging is inscribed with the word ‘Lift’. Lifts are ‘ropes which reach from each mast-head to their respective yard-arms to steady and suspend the ends’.2 Across the top of the page, three sketches elaborate further on this topic. A small, darkly drawn piece of taut rope towards the left sits in isolation. At centre, a section of mast crossed with a yard and topped with a platform seems to be described. To the right of this, the point of connection between two parts of a mast appears under Turner’s meticulous scrutiny.

Maud Whatley
January 2016

Finberg 1909, I, p.608.
‘lift, n.2OED Online, accessed 18 January 2016,

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