Joseph Mallord William Turner

The East End of Westminster Abbey; the Tower of St Margaret’s Church, Westminster; the King’s Entrance Porch of the Old Houses of Parliament


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 101 × 79 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXXXI 7 a

Catalogue entry

As Sarah Taft has noted, Ian Warrell was the first to identify this drawing and a few others in this sketchbook as relating to Turner’s slightly unfinished watercolour of The Burning of the Houses of Parliament, of about 1834–5 (Tate D36235; Turner Bequest CCCLXIV 373).1 The watercolour is discussed in the sketchbook’s Introduction.
With the page turned vertically, Turner has recorded part of the east end of Westminster Abbey, with its elaborate sequence of stone tracery and buttresses. At the top right is a detail of the upper part of St Margaret’s Church, north of the abbey. At the bottom, drawn inverted relative to the foliation, is the castellated King’s Entrance porch with its flanking screen which stood at the south-west corner of the old Houses of Parliament complex at the time of the October 1834 fire, as also seen on folio 13 recto (D27747). The screen appears to be continued a little way onto folio 8 recto opposite (D27738), where that part of the sketch and various other pencil work are largely obscured by unrelated watercolour washes which would seem to have been applied subsequently. This would imply that the washes which characterise D27738 and several other such pages cannot predate the autumn of 1834, as the pencil sketches were apparently made in the aftermath of the fire.

Matthew Imms
April 2014

See Taft 2007, p.181; the fire had been mentioned in general terms in connection with this sketchbook in Ian Warrell, ‘Exploring the “Dark Side”: Ruskin and the Problem of Turner’s Erotica’, with ‘A Checklist of Erotic Sketches in the Turner Bequest’, British Art Journal, vol.4, no.1, Spring 2003, p.28.

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