Joseph Mallord William Turner

?The Folly Tower above Penlee Point; Plymouth Harbour from Mount Edgcumbe


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 166 × 208 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXXV 10 a

Catalogue entry

The main drawing, on the left, shows a Gothic tower on a steep hill. This may be the folly tower which once overlooked Plymouth Sound above Penlee Point, from a similar viewpoint as in the drawings on folios 10 recto and 11 recto (D08874, D08875; CXXV 9, 10). It was apparently demolished During World War I for security reasons,1 and is still marked as a ruin on Ordnance Survey maps. In the contemporary Devonshire Coast, No.1 sketchbook is a drawing, possibly inscribed ‘Egecumb’, which seems to show the same view but with a more extensive foreground including a rocky coastline (Tate D08530; Turner Bequest CXXIII 85a).
On the right is a slight continuation from the composition on folio 12 recto opposite (D08877; CXXV 11). Finberg noted the double-page sketch as the basis of the watercolour Plymouth Dock from Mount Edgecumbe of about 1814 (Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery),2 engraved in 1816 for the Picturesque Views on the Southern Coast of England3 (see the concordance of the series in the 1811 tour introduction). However, Turner only followed the drawing on the opposite page, effectively ignoring the branches shown here. A small splash of blue-grey at the top left, accidental or perhaps a colour test, presumably dates from Turner’s creation of the watercolour.
This is one of a series of sketches of Plymouth and nearby districts, running from folio 3 recto (D08866; CXXV 2) to folio 14 recto (D08880; CXXV 13); see the entry for the first of these for other Plymouth views.

Matthew Imms
February 2011

‘Kingsand and Cawsand’, Rame Peninsula History, accessed 1 February 2011,
Wilton 1979, p.352 no.456, reproduced.
Finberg 1909, I, p.355; see also Wilton 1979, p.352, and Shanes 1981, p.152.

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